A New Jersey construction company has filed a legal malpractice action
against a suburban Philadelphia law firm and three of its attorneys over allegations that the defendants’ actions caused the plaintiff to lose out on $1 million it claims it was owed by another construction firm.
Aloia Construction Inc., which is based in Marlton, N.J., filed suit on Oct. 28 against Conshohocken, Pa.-based Halberstadt Curley LLC and lawyers Charles V. Curley, Kelle A. Kilgarriff and Kevin B. Watson.
The complaint, which was filed at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia, says that Aloia Construction had hired the defendants to represent it in a breach of contract matter against Century Construction LLC in which the plaintiff contends Century owed it more than $1 million in damages in connection with a construction project at the Four Points Sheraton in downtown Philadelphia.
Watson, one of the co-defendants, had initiated the arbitration process to recover the $1 million in damages in July 2011, the lawsuit states, and it was Watson, Kilgarriff and Curley who three months later filed preliminary objections to Century Construction’s petition to dismiss the arbitration, according to the civil action.
The preliminary objections, however, were legally defective, the complaint alleges, with Aloia Construction maintaining that because Century Construction’s petition was not a pleading, preliminary objections such as those filed by the attorneys could not serve as an appropriate response under the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure.
Attorneys for Century Construction subsequently filed their own preliminary objections to the supposed defective objections that had been filed by the defendants.
“Even after receipt of this pleading that the filing of preliminary objections was legally defective, Attorneys Watson, Curley and Kilgarriff still failed to file a Response to the Petition to Dismiss Arbitration and/or failed to take the necessary steps to file a response to the Petition to Dismiss Arbitration,” the lawsuit states.
In late December 2011, the suit states, a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge granted Century Construction’s petition to dismiss the arbitration proceeding.
Watson filed a motion for reconsideration about two weeks later, but the motion was denied.
Watson apparently didn’t appeal the issue further.
Aloia Construction contends that the defendants should have known that their preliminary objections were procedurally defective.
In numerous conversations with company principal Tom Aloia, both Watson and Curley admitted they made a mistake when they filed preliminary objections as opposed to a response to the petition to dismiss the arbitration, according to the lawsuit.
As a result of the defendants’ actions and/or inactions, Aloia Construction claims it was left with no ability to recover the more than $1 million it was owed by the other construction company, the suit states.
The complaint contains counts of negligence, professional negligence, legal malpractice, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
The plaintiff seeks more than $75,000 in compensatory and special damages, in addition to interest, attorneys’ fees and costs.
Aloia is being represented by Marlton, N.J. lawyer Kevin M. Siegel.
The federal case number is 2:13-cv-06267-JP.