Beaufort attorney responds to Berenger's lawsuit

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comJuly 18, 2012 

A Beaufort attorney being sued by actor Tom Berenger for legal malpractice denies he was hired by the "Platoon" star to negotiate or review the terms of a post-martial agreement the actor says cost him more than $100,000.

An attorney for lawyer Dean Bell filed a response Tuesday in the Beaufort County Court of Common Pleas denying Berenger's assertion that Bell advised him to sign an amendment to his prenuptial agreement with his third wife, Patricia Alvaran, without reading the document.

Bell's attorney, Kent Stair of Charleston, said Bell was "not retained to negotiate the terms of the post-martial agreement" and that Berenger and Alvaran had agreed to its terms before the actor ever contacted Bell, according to the response.

Berenger, best known for his roles in the films "Platoon," "The Big Chill" and "Major League," married Alvaran in Beaufort in January 1998, according to court records. The couple divorced in June 2011.

The lawsuit alleges Bell came to Berenger's home one evening while the actor was "socializing with friends" and "advised (him) to sign the proposed amendment -- without making or suggesting any changes -- representing that it was in Mr. Berenger's best interests."

Bell said he was summoned to the actor's home that night to present him with the post-martial agreement so that Berenger could sign it before leaving the country, according to the response. Bell added that the brief meeting was his first with Berenger.

With Alvaran in attendance, Berenger "read the short, six-page post-marital agreement and discussed, in detail, the four brief, pertinent paragraphs dealing with the financial distribution revisions ... with Ms. Alvaran," the response said. And Berenger confirmed "that it did, in fact, represent what he and Ms. Alvaran had previously discussed and agreed upon."

Berenger said he did not know the amendment entitled Alvaran to a cut of his past and future earnings and the right to the actor's estate upon his death, all of which Alvaran had waived when the couple drafted their original prenuptial agreement, the lawsuit said.

The premarital agreement had capped alimony at $50,000 if the couple divorced, according to the lawsuit.

Berenger said that had Bell provided "advice any competent lawyer in South Carolina would have ... (Berenger) would not have signed the post-martial amendment."

In an email Tuesday, Bell again rebuffed Berenger's claims.

"All of Mr. Berenger's claims are denied, and quite frankly, in my opinion, common sense would call them into question," Bell wrote. "The truth is in my answer, and I feel certain that the jury will see that very quickly."

Attempts Tuesday to reach Berenger's attorney, Thomas Pendarvis of Beaufort, were unsuccessful.

Berenger's suit seeks actual and punitive damages.

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