A New Jersey judge has ruled that a bank cannot be held liable in the case of a medical office billing clerk who allegedly stole $2 million from her employer and deposited the money into an account she set up at the bank.
Bergen County Superior Court Judge Robert Wilson ruled Monday that the defendant, TD Bank, cannot be held liable for the losses incurred by the plaintiff, Liberty Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation of Queens, New York, because there was no fiduciary relationship between the medical office and the bank.
“[A]bsent a special relationship, courts will typically bar claims of non-customers against banks,” Wilson said, citing the state Supreme Court’s 2001 ruling in City Check Cashing v. Manufacturers Hanover Trust.
Liberty hired Jamie Cha, 46, of Palisades Park, to be its billing clerk in 2008. Her job was to coordinate billing and payments from insurance companies and patients, according to the decision.
According to a June 2016 statement released by the Queens County District Attorney’s Office, Cha stole about 500 checks, totaling $2 million, during the course of her employment.
Cha set up an account with TD Bank under the name, “Liberty Physical Med & Rehab PC,” designated herself as president, and deposited the checks into that account, the district attorney’s office said.
Her alleged scheme was discovered when an official with the medical office attempted to cash a check at the office’s regular bank and discovered it already had been deposited into the TD Bank account. Cha was charged with grand larceny, and her case is still pending, said Ikimulisa Livingston, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.
Liberty filed a lawsuit against Cha and TD Bank in Bergen County Superior Court last December, alleging common-law claims against the bank of conversion and breach of fiduciary duty.
The bank moved to have the claims dismissed on summary judgment.
Wilson, in his ruling, said claims against banks made by noncustomers are governed by the Uniform Commercial Code, which does provide for common-law claims of action. In this case, Liberty had no other accounts with TD Bank, Wilson said.
“TD Bank and the plaintiff have no banking relationship, or any other relationship for that matter,” the judge said.
TD Bank also argued that there is a three-year statute of limitations for claims filed under the UCC, and that Liberty did not file a claim until seven years after the thefts began.
Edward Mazlish of Fort Lee’s Kim & Bae represented Liberty. Jeffrey Johnson of Brown & Connery in Westmont represented TD Bank. Neither returned calls seeking comment.
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