Victory for Accountants: Accountant Third-Party Liability Based on Third-Party’s Access to Accountants’ Work Product Arises Only When Accountant is Explicitly Informed at Outset of Engagement that Third Party Will Rely on Accountant’s Work

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently held in Cast Art Industries, LLC v. KPMG LLP that the scope of accountant liability contained in the Accountant Liability Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-25(b)(2)(a), is restricted to clients and third parties who the accountant knew at the start of engagement would have access to the accountant’s work product. N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-25(b)(2) identifies three circumstances when an accountant may be liable to a third party, including when the accountant “knew at the time of the engagement by the client, or agreed with the client after the time of the engagement” that the accountant’s work product would be made available to the third party. The Appellate Division held that an accountant retained to conduct an audit could be liable to a third party who received and relied on the audit so long as the accountant knew at some point during the engagement that the third party would rely on the audit.