(c) 2010-2024 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Judge Erred in Finding a Conflict in Representation

Ameribuilt Contractors appealed the workers' compensation judge's February 1, 2022 order rejecting a proposed settlement and disqualifying its assigned insurance counsel, Brown & Connery, LLP (B&C), on the basis of a perceived conflict between Ameribuilt's workers' compensation carrier, Travelers Property Casualty Insurance Co. (Travelers), and Travelers' ostensible insured, respondent Robert Alam. The court concluded that the judge erred in finding that a conflict existed and, thus, there was no basis for the disqualification. Accordingly, the court is constrained to reverse.

When a Judge May Remove Counsel
A trial judge may order the removal of counsel where there is a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Here, the judge disqualified B&C based on a violation of R.P.C. 1.7, which states, in pertinent part, that "a lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest." In evaluating whether a conflict exists, however, we are mindful that "[a] corporation is regarded as an entity separate and distinct from its shareholders." Tully v. Mirz, 457 N.J. Super. 114, 123 (App. Div. 2018) (quoting Strasenburgh v. Straubmuller, 146 N.J. 527, 549 (1996)). Additionally, "a corporation is regarded in law as an entity distinct from its individual officers, directors, and agents." Printing Mart-Morristown v. Sharp Elecs. Corp., 116 N.J. 739, 761 (1989) (citation omitted).

Failure to Distinguish a Corporation from a Shareholder/Owner
Guided by these well-established legal principles, the court concludes that the trial judge erred in finding a conflict between Travelers and Alam. In reaching that conclusion, the court held that the judge failed to distinguish Ameribuilt, the corporation, from Alam, an owner and shareholder.

Robert Alam v Ameribuilt Contractors, Docket A-2114-21,474 N.J. Super 30, 284 A 3d 1172 (N.J.App. Div. 2022)

Recommended Citation: Gelman, Jon L.,  Judge Erred in Finding a Conflict in Representation, Workers' Compensation Blog, Oct. 31, 2022),

Related Material:

Attorney responsibilities an ethical considerations - Conflicts of Interest, 39 NJ Practice Series (NJ Workers Compensation Law 3d ed.) §34.5, Gelman, Jon L. (Thompson Reuters) 2022.

A Cautionary Note on Citing Unpublished Decisions 10-13/2022

Rehabilitation, recognition and research needed for people living with long COVID 10/11/2022

Occupational Exposure to Monkeypox 10/08/2022

New Fee Rules for Obtaining Medical Records 10/07/2022


Jon L. Gelman of Wayne, NJ, is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  have represented injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.


Blog: Workers ' Compensation

Twitter: jongelman

LinkedIn: JonGelman

LinkedIn Group: Injured Workers Law & Advocacy Group

Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" Thomson-Reuters