NEW YORK, NY – May 7, 2019 – Greenspoon Marder prevailed on a motion to vacate an order dismissing the claims of client Yvonne Q. Schley, individually, and as Grantor of the Yvonne Q. Schley Irrevocable Trust in a lawsuit against Peapack-Gladstone Bank. The motion was issued by Somerset County Court in New Jersey on the grounds of newly discovered evidence and granted Mrs. Schley leave to serve a Third Amended Complaint asserting claims against the bank and her former attorney Robert J. Fox, Esq. of Carter, Van Rensselaer & Caldwell.
After making premium payments since 2006, Mrs. Schley alleges that Peapack-Gladstone Bank is liable for, among other things, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud, in failing to ensure that she made a 2013 annual payment towards a life insurance policy that would have provided her estate with a guaranteed $1,000,000 benefit and substantial tax benefits upon her death. Mrs. Schley alleges that the defendants compounded this error by causing two additional payments in 2014 and 2015 to be made in the amount of $136,863.29 to keep the policy in effect after the missed payment without her informed consent. Mrs. Schley seeks damages in excess of $1,000,000, as well as treble damages and attorney’s fees.
The Court ruled that new evidence identified by Mrs. Schley during discovery was sufficient to vacate the previous orders dismissing three prior complaints seeking to assert causes of action against the bank. The evidence consisted primarily of emails by a Peapack-Gladstone Bank employee stating that, among other things, the bank had “no way of knowing” whether its employees had ever contacted Mrs. Schley to remind her to pay the 2013 premium. The email, which was only produced by the bank in response to a subpoena in furtherance of claims against the attorney defendants, further stated that in the employee’s opinion, it is “obvious” that the bank will “lose in the courts.”
The Court also relied upon deposition testimony by Mrs. Schley’s former attorney Mr. Fox stating that he had never received a 2014 letter from PG Bank purporting to confirm thirteen months later that Mrs. Schley had consented to skipping the 2013 payment, which was consistent with Mrs. Schley’s testimony that she never received the letter either. The Court expressed that if Mrs. Schley had given timely informed consent to missing the 2013 payment, a responsible fiduciary, at least arguably, would have documented her decision in writing at that time and perhaps even notified her attorney, instead of waiting thirteen months to send a letter allegedly documenting such a momentous decision.
Mrs. Schley was also permitted to maintain claims against Mr. Fox for legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duties, and to add claims for fraudulent concealment, negligent misrepresentation, and violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. Mrs. Schley alleges that these attorney defendants, among other things, failed to disclose a longstanding relationship with PG Bank in a conflicts waiver, failed to review the policy and advise her regarding same, failed to ensure that proper mechanisms were in place to ensure timely premium payments, and failed to promptly advise her regarding the impacts of the missed 2013 payment upon learning of same.
The Greenspoon Marder team representing Mrs. Schley included partner James Valvano and associate Erik Berglund.
“We are pleased that the Court found that Mrs. Schley’s claims can move forward in light of this new evidence,” said Mr. Valvano. “We look forward to demonstrating that Mrs. Schley is entitled to damages from PG Bank and Mr. Fox.”
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