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Copyright (c) 1998 Seton Hall University School of Law
Seton Hall Law Review

NOTE: The Rise and Fall of the Entire Controversy Doctrine as Applied to Attorney Malpractice Actions


28 Seton Hall L. Rev. 1292


Stacey Eisenberg


The entire controversy doctrine is a New Jersey rule of civil procedure that requires all legal issues involved in a controversy to be resolved in one judicial proceeding. 1 It mandates the joinder of all related claims and parties with a material interest in the outcome of a legal action. 2 The doctrine, which began as a practical rule intended to promote fairness and judicial efficiency, was radically expanded in Circle Chevrolet v. Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla, 3 where the Supreme Court of New Jersey announced that the doctrine would apply in the context of attorney malpractice actions. 4 That application spurred tremendous controversy and confusion within the New Jersey bar. 5 Ultimately, the New Jersey Supreme Court overruled it self by carving out an exception to the entire controversy doctrine for attorney malpractice actions. 6 Despite critics' assessments that the supreme court should have abandoned the doctrine completely, the entire controversy doctrine still remains a viable rule of New Jersey civil procedure. 7

This Note will explore the impact that the entire controversy doctrine has had on litigation in New Jersey, specifically in the arena of attorney malpractice actions. Part I defines the doctrine and articulates its purposes. Part II explores the history of the entire controversy doctrine from the first rules of party joinder to the doctrine as it exists today. Part III details the criticisms of applying the doctrine to attorney malpractice actions. Part IV focuses on the New Jersey Supreme Court's ...
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