Two state appellate court judges ruled today that the Borough of Manville may proceed on a claim of legal malpractice filed against their former municipal attorney, Francis P. Linnus.
That reverses a decision by Superior Court Kevin Shanahan to dismiss Manville’s lawsuit after finding that the six-year statute of limitations had expired.
The allegations against Linnus are connected to a controversy over receiving more than $118,000 in health benefits for which he was not entitled from 2008 through 2014 while serving as borough attorney.
An investigation by the state Pension Fraud & Abuse Unit completed in 2019 found that Linnus was told in 2011 that he could not be both an independent contractor and employee, but he continued to bill Manville for legal services while being on the borough payroll and receiving state-administered health benefits.
In their lawsuit, Manville alleged that Linnus “knowingly advised the borough of his eligibility for health benefits, enriching himself to the detriment of his client.”
Linnus’ attorney, Marshall Dennehy, said that Manville waited too long to file a malpractice claim, but the borough argued that Linnus never advised them of the issue involving his own benefits in 2008, when the application was filed, and that they only became aware when the state conducted their own investigation, court records show.
The appellate judges – Francis Vernoia and Lisa Firko – said that Linnus did not provide any evidence that the borough knew about the benefits probe
“ The emails show only plaintiff was aware that defendant’s eligibility for benefits was related to the status of his relationship with plaintiff,” the appellate judges wrote. “The emails and the allegations in the complaint, when read liberally, support plaintiff’s claim that defendant, in his role as Borough attorney, addressed and resolved the eligibility issue as early as 2008, and that he thereafter erroneously advised plaintiff he was eligible for the benefits, or purposely failed to advise plaintiff he was ineligible for the benefits.”