You asked for it. Your judicious legal questions surrounding Teresa Giudice’s legal malpractice suit against James Kridel in the matter of Teresa Giudice v. James A. Kridel, Jr., d/b/a The Kridel Law Group, Index No. 161885/2014, have been burning up the threads for the past few months. Now is the time to spill the tea and dish on Mr. Kridel’s side of the story.
On Saturday, April 4 I met with attorney, Mr. Kridel – who represented Mrs. Giudice during her 2009 bankruptcy filing – for a one-on-one exclusive interview in the affluent village of Ridgewood, New Jersey. The Starbucks was crawling with soccer moms and business moguls when Mr. Kridel and I spoke for the better part of two hours about Teresa Giudice’s suit against him for legal malpractice; breach of contract; and breach of a fiduciary duty.
Our talk began with analysis of the Order dated March 26, 2015 extending Plaintiff’s time to serve the Summons. The Court granted Plaintiff’s 120 day extension request ex parte, meaning it was approved for the benefit of one party only, and without notice to or contestation by any person negatively interested (Mr. Kridel). Said extension will expire on July 30, 2015.
CPLR §306-B requires that upon the timely filing of the summons and complaint, the plaintiff must serve same upon the defendant within 120 days after such filing (Leader v. Maronev, Ponzini & Spencer, 97 NY2d 95, 100 ). Where service is not made within 120 days of timely filing, the statute allows plaintiff to seek an extension of time to effect service, upon good cause shown, or in the interests of justice (Khedouri v. Equinox, 73 A.D.3d 532 [1st Dept. 2010]). A “good cause” extension requires a showing of reasonable diligence in attempting to effect service upon a defendant (Henneberry v. Borstein, 91 A.D.3d 493 [1st Dept. 2012]).
Was Plaintiff reasonably diligent in its effort to effect service upon Mr. Kridel? The documents supporting such requests for an extension must be aboveboard. Bradley Kasten, a licensed processed server, maintained in his Affidavit In Support Of Motion To Extend Time To Serve Summons (“Affidavit”):
“Defendant Kridel is counsel of record for one of the parties in Chong vs. 457 West 22nd Street [“Chong Case”]….I have attempted to serve Defendant Kridel at 60 Centre Street on the following dates at which there were appearances scheduled in the Chong Case….Defendant Kridel was not present at any of the motion submission dates set forth in Paragraph 4.”
While extensions to serve a summons are granted as a matter of course, Mr. Kridel explained his absence at 60 Centre Street on the dates referred to by Mr. Kesten: “We were dismissed from that case.” Specifically, Mr. Kridel’s firm represented Tambrio Corp. in the Chong Case, and according to Mr. Kridel, Tambrio Corp. was not a party to the action when Plaintiff attempted to perfect service.
“Why didn’t he just serve me in New Jersey?” exclaimed Mr. Kridel. It is axiomatic that efforts could have been made to serve Mr. Kridel at his law office in New York or New Jersey. When examining the bounds of permissible service of process, Mr. Kridel intoned, “There is nothing that says he has to serve me in New York. If he would just call, we’d accept service.”
Mr. Kasten alleged in his Affidavit that he attempted to serve the Defendant in the Chong Case on December 2, 2014; December 15, 2015 [an error since December 15, 2015 is a date that has not yet come to pass]; January 21, 2015; February 10, 2015; and March 17, 2015. Additionally, Plaintiff’s attorney asserted in his Affirmation, “Plaintiff has made various attempts to personally serve the Plaintiff in New York” (see ¶10). Plaintiff should not be trying to serve itself. Clearly another glaring typo has reared its ugly head. All documents should be proofread for clarity and accuracy. What is telling is that the so-called “various attempts” were made at one location in which Mr. Kridel had no reason to be present on the dates Plaintiff attempted service there.
Both personal jurisdiction and proper service of process must exist in order for a court to exercise its authority over a defendant. Remember that without perfected service, the suit against Mr. Kridel goes nowhere. Besides, Mr. Kridel is not loath to accept service of pleadings. On the contrary, he volunteered to me that since Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in December he has been served in other unrelated matters without issue. What makes Teresa Giudice’s lawsuit different?
The answer may be found in email correspondences sent by Plaintiff’s counsel to Defendant’s attorney on December 19, 2014 and January 5, 2015 in which Plaintiff requested Defendant execute an Acknowledgment of Service and consent to personal jurisdiction in New York.
First-year law students learn that parties must attempt to preserve all defenses, including lack of causation; statute of limitations; comparative negligence; lack of damages; and personal jurisdiction. No defendant would consent to a waiver of issues. Plaintiff is trying to win on the merits – by removing a defense from Mr. Kridel’s arsenal – before the Summons and Complaint has effectively been served.
Should a New York court even hear the legal malpractice suit?
“None of the transactions between Teresa and I occurred in New York; all witnesses are in New Jersey; Teresa resides in New Jersey; the documentary evidence is in New Jersey; and anytime she came to the office, it was to our New Jersey location,” rationalized Mr. Kridel. There is no connection to New York besides the fact Mr. Kridel has an office there.
Plaintiff’s counsel endeavored to further disparage Mr. Kridel in his Affirmation In Support of Motion To Extend Time To Serve Summons, commenting in paragraph 24, “It was reported in the New York Post that the Defendant has ‘scoffed’ at this lawsuit. Defendant should not be adverse to defending against the merits of this lawsuit.” There are three fundamental problems with that statement, which are:
- 1) The New York Post piece has no bearing whatsoever on service of process issues, especially as the electronic filing by Plaintiff’s counsel was done “incorrectly,” according to Mr. Kridel. The article has no relevancy at this juncture to the case. Inserting said article into the consciousness of the Court could be perceived as underhanded and inappropriate.
- 2) “scoffed” is how the New York Post couched Mr. Kridel’s statements, and that categorization can only be attributed to the paper, not Mr. Kridel. Additionally, the New York Post credited the following quote to Mr. Kridel: “We can only rely on the facts that were provided to us. I don’t wish her any ill-will, but I would have preferred a ‘thank you’ rather than a lawsuit.” Does that account sound like Mr. Kridel ridiculed the suit?
- 3) “adverse” was indecorously used in this context. It is easy to confuse adverse and averse but their meanings are different. Adverse means unfavorable, and it is not applied to humans (ex. “The Weather Channel said Northern California would experience adverse weather conditions over the next two days.”) Meanwhile, averse means unwilling as well as having a strong feeling against and is always followed by the preposition “to.” It applies to a person and is used like this: “He was averse to discussing the trial.”
The service of process mêlée is the tip of the iceberg. I have dozens of pages of notes from my meeting with Mr. Kridel, who maintains,
“There is no merit to any of her allegations.”
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my “Coffee With A Counselor” blog. Grab your gavel, join the conversation, and tell us what you think about these latest legal developments.