A New Jersey lawyer will face a legal malpractice suit for failing to assert a viable “pay-to-play” corruption-related claim when he represented the owners of a waste-collection company, a New Jersey appeals court said in an unpublished ruling.

Gabriel Ambrosio, Anthony P. Ambrosio, and John T. Ambrosio represented Michael and Lori Vance and their company, Walker Management Systems Inc., in a suit against Meadowbrook Industries LLC. Meadowbrok had purchased most of the Walker Management’s assets.

Following the sale, Walker Management spent money to service contracts with the state of New Jersey. The Vances sued Meadowbrook, alleging that Meadowbrook assumed those service contracts. They claimed that Walker was driven to bankruptcy and lost commissions as a result of Meadowbrook not assuming those service contracts.

The Ambrosios represented the Vances and Walker Management in the suit. They argued that the purchase contract was unenforceable without prior approval from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, and that Meadowbrook added terms without Lori Vance’s knowledge.

John Ambrosio allegedly decided to forego Lori Vance’s preferred argument—that Meadowbrook fraudulently concealed the fact that an earlier “pay-to-play” scandal prevented it from assuming Walker Management’s contracts with the state of New Jersey.

The court in the underlying suit granted summary judgment in Meadowbrook’s favor. The Vances and their company then sued Anthony and John Ambrosio and the estate of Gabriel Ambrosio, along with their firms and attorney Joan Scerbo.

The trial court dismissed the malpractice suit, saying the result wouldn’t have been any different. The plaintiffs appealed the result as to John Ambrosio and his firm, Ambrosio & Associates.

The plaintiffs could have recovered on the fraud theory, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, said. It reinstated the case against the Ambrosios in a per curiam unpublished opinion.

Weisberg Law represented the Vances and Walker Management.

Rebar Bernstiel represented the Ambrosios and their firms.

The case is Vance v. Scerbo, 2019 BL 61695, N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div., A-2019-17T4, unpublished 2/26/19.