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The Supreme Court of New Hampshire has revived claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress, fraudulent misrepresentation and vicarious liability against Nixon Peabody Boston partner Regina Rockefeller and the firm stemming from an attorney’s wife’s lawsuit. The Sept. 15 ruling in Lorraine Tessier v. Regina Rockefeller partially affirmed and partially reversed rulings made by Superior Court Justice Gillian Abramson in Hillsborough County, N.H., Superior Court. The state high court remanded the surviving claims to the lower court. The case arose from an accusation of theft against the plaintiff’s lawyer husband, Thomas Tessier, and Rockefeller’s alleged assurance that she wouldn’t report him if he paid back the money. “It could reasonably be found that it was foreseeable that by making fraudulent misrepresentations to Attorney Tessier and through him, to the plaintiff, with the intention of causing the plaintiff to relinquish her property, the plaintiff would suffer emotional harm as a result,” the court said. The justices upheld the lower court’s dismissal of several counts, including improper use New Hampshire’s legal system; bad faith; violation of the duty of good faith and fair dealing implied in all New Hampshire contracts; intentional and/or recklessly causing the plaintiff’s emotional distress and mental suffering. They also rejected a negligence claim against Nixon Peabody for failing to properly train and supervise Rockefeller and other employees. The court upheld the trial court’s denial of Lorraine Tessier’s motion to amend the complaint to add two contract claims. Associate Justice Carol Ann Conboy wrote the opinion. Chief Justice Linda Stewart Dalianis, associate justices Gary Hicks and Robert Lynn and Senior Associate Justice James Duggan concurred. The allegations centered around Thomas Tessier, of the now-defunct Christy & Tessier firm in Manchester, N.H., and his work for former client Frederick Jakobiec. Lorraine Tessier’s lawyer, Vincent Wenners Jr., a solo practitioner in Manchester N.H., said Thomas Tessier is in now prison. According to the court, Jakobiec hired Thomas Tessier for estate work but later retained Rockefeller, a Boston partner in Nixon Peabody’s health services practice. In June 2006, Rockefeller accused Thomas Tessier of “misusing and converting substantial assets of the Jakobiec family to his own use.” The court said that Rockefeller threatened Tessier with criminal action and referral to the New Hampshire Supreme Court Attorney Discipline Office if he did not repay Jakobiec’s money. Rockefeller allegedly promised Tessier that “if he repaid the money no further action would be taken against him.” Lorraine Tessier claimed she was forced “under duress” to take a reverse mortgage on the family home to fulfill an April 2007 settlement agreement. In addition, she claimed, the defendants “stripped” her and her husband of their individual and joint assets, including a Vermont vacation property, over a two-year period. Despite the settlement, Lorraine Tessier claimed, the defendants reported Thomas Tessier’s actions to his law partner and the attorney discipline office. According to he opinion, Jakobiec also hired a lawyer to sue Thomas Tessier and to initiate foreclosure on his mortgage. Lorraine Tessier claimed she suffered severe emotional and physical distress requiring hospitalization and that her husband sought psychological and medical treatment. Conboy wrote that Lorraine Tessier’s allegations “would support a finding that at the time Attorney Rockefeller allegedly promised not to report Attorney Tessier’s misconduct, the defendants knew they had the obligation to do so and, thus, had no intention of keeping the promise.” “The fact that the alleged misrepresentation was not made directly to the plaintiff does not defeat her cause of action,” Conboy wrote. She added that the alleged conduct that supported a fraudulent misrepresentation claim also supported a negligent infliction of emotional distress claim. The justices reinstated a claim for vicarious liability. “Because we conclude that the plaintiff has stated claims in tort for fraudulent misrepresentation and negligent infliction of emotional distress, we reverse the trial court’s ruling,” Conboy wrote. Wenners declined to comment, noting that the case remains pending. Neither Rockefeller nor her lawyers on the case, Manchester Nixon Peabody partner Gordon MacDonald and associate Brian Duffy, responded to requests for comment. In a written statement, the firm noted that “this decision is based on allegations in a complaint. Because this is a pending matter, we have no further comment.” Sheri Qualters can be contacted at [email protected].

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