As discussed here, many veteran lawyers know of Judson v. Peoples Bank & Trust Co. of Westfield, 17 N.J. 67 (1957), as the predecessor to Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 142 N.J. 520 (1995), on the subject of the standards for summary judgment. But Judson did not end there. On this date in 1957, the Supreme Court issued another opinion in that case. 25 N.J. 17 (1957).
Plaintiffs had prevailed at trial, but they appealed the damage award as inadequate. They also raised an issue about the Joint Tortfeasors Contribution Law, N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-1 et seq. The Supreme Court granted review on its own motion before the Appellate Division had acted. In an opinion by Chief Justice Weintraub, from which only Justice Heher dissented (and that dissent was only in part), the Court modified the opinion below.
This opinion was less notable for its outcome than for some of the fundamental principles that are all contained in one place. Among those are: (1) though expressions of opinion normally cannot be relied upon as the basis for a fraud claim, reliance can be asserted when the speaker has gained the victim’s confidence or has held himself or herself out as having special knowledge; (2) “one who perpetrates a fraud may not urge that his victim should have been more circumspect or astute”; (3) when A misrepresents something to B, knowing or desiring that B will then transmit that to C, who relies to his detriment on that misrepresentation, A is liable to C even though A never communicated to C; (4) “A person is liable with another if he knows that the other’s conduct constitutes a breach of duty and gives substantial assistance or encouragement to the other so to conduct himself”; and (5) it is the policy of the law to encourage settlements.
The prior Judson opinion has been overtaken by Brill. But these principles of this Judson decision live on, especially in commercial cases.