Legal malpractice context…continuous representation doctrine…generally limited to…a specific legal matter…

In Goodman v Weiss, Zarett, Brofman, Sonnenklar & Levy, P.C., 199 AD3d 659, 661-62 [2d Dept 2021], court affirmed the dismissal the client’s malpractice action as time-barred, holding:

The plaintiff contends that the defendant’s malpractice consisted of improperly negotiating his separation from his previous employer and his new employment contract with the hospitals. However, an action alleging legal malpractice must be commenced within three years from the date of accrual (see CPLR 214 [6]). A claim accrues when the malpractice is committed, not when the client discovers it (see Shumsky v Eisenstein, 96 NY2d 164, 166 [2001]). “Causes of action alleging legal malpractice which would otherwise be time-barred are timely if the doctrine of continuous representation applies” (DeStaso v Condon Resnick, LLP, 90 AD3d 809, 812 [2011]). “In the legal malpractice context, the continuous representation doctrine tolls the statute of limitations where there is a mutual understanding of the need for further representation on the specific subject matter underlying the malpractice claim” (id. at 812). Application of the continuous representation doctrine is generally “limited to the course of representation concerning a specific legal matter . . . ; [t]he concern, of course, is whether there has been continuous [representation], and not merely a continuing relation” between the client and the lawyer (Shumsky v Eisenstein, 96 NY2d at 168 [internal quotation marks omitted]).

Contrary to the plaintiff’s contention, the legal malpractice cause of action at issue was time-barred under CPLR 214 (6), and the continuous representation doctrine did not toll the statute of limitations. That doctrine “tolls the running of the statute of limitations on a cause of action against a professional defendant only so long as the defendant continues to represent the plaintiff[s] in connection with the particular transaction which is the subject of the action and not merely during the continuation of a general professional relationship” (Maurice W. Pomfrey & Assoc., Ltd. v Hancock & Estabrook, LLP, 50 AD3d 1531, 1533 [2008] [internal quotation marks omitted]). Although the plaintiff alleges that the defendant continued to provide legal services to him between January 2011 and November 2013, he did not seek or obtain the defendant’s legal services at any time during that period and, when the plaintiff did subsequently engage the defendant’s legal services, that engagement was with regard to the performance of distinct services related to a different subject matter. Accordingly, the Supreme Court properly determined that the continuous representation toll was inapplicable and granted that branch of the defendant’s motion which was to dismiss the legal malpractice cause of action as time-barred.


Richard A. Klass, Esq.
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Richard A. Klass, Esq., maintains a law firm engaged in civil litigation at 16 Court Street, 28th Floor, Brooklyn, New York. He may be reached at (718) COURT●ST or RichKlass@courtstreetlaw.comcreate new email with any questions.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

© 2022 Richard A. Klass

Scales of justice

False Hopes, more dangerous than fears: default, action and modification of a Promissory Note

“False hopes are more dangerous than fears.”

— J.R.R. Tolkien

A friend made a $200,000 personal loan (“Lender”) to one of his friends (“Borrower). At the time the loan was made in 2016, the Borrower signed a promissory note[1] in favor of his Lender friend, promising to repay the loan within ten months with interest. According to the terms of the Promissory Note, if the Borrower failed to repay the principal and interest in full by its due date at the end of 2016, any accrued interest would thereafter be calculated at the default rate of twenty percent per annum. In addition, the Promissory Note stated that “[n]o term of [the Promissory Note] may be waived, modified or amended except by instrument in writing signed by both of the parties.”

Default on the note

The Borrower failed to repay the entire balance due by the due date and was, therefore, in default under the terms of the Promissory Note. Nonetheless, the Lender agreed to allow his friend to continue making monthly payments on the balance due. Finally, the payments by the Borrower became so sporadic that, in 2019, the Lender decided to sue his friend to recover the balance due on the loan.

Action brought on the note

The Lender retained Richard A. Klass, Esq., Your Court Street Lawyer, to file a claim for breach of contract based upon non-payment of the Promissory Note. He established his prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on the cause of action to recover on the note through submission of the Promissory Note, which contained an unequivocal and unconditional obligation to pay, and an affidavit setting forth the borrower’s default. See Intermax Eco, LLC v Eco Family Food Mart Corp., 172 AD3d 1040, 1041 [2d Dept 2019]; Boro P. Health Mgt., LLC v Boro for Health, LLC, 39 Misc 3d 1229(A)972 N.Y.S.2d 142 [Sup Ct 2013].

There was no modification of the note.

In response to the Lender’s lawsuit, the Borrower put up the defense that the terms of the note were modified through a series of email exchanges between him and the Lender. The Borrower filed an affidavit alleging that he made payments over the course of several years which the lender accepted; and the loan was, thus, modified.

As urged by the Lender, the alleged defense of loan modification (based on the fact that the Lender took payments from his friend after the loan came due) completely missed the point — by its own terms, the Promissory Note became due and owing in 2016. Since the Promissory Note matured by its own terms in 2016, the Lender was well within his rights to pursue collection, since the cause of action had already accrued.[2] The assertion that there was some sort of modification of the note or a waiver of same was belied by both the facts and law. While the Borrower attempted to rely on a short exchange of emails in which his friend was basically “chewing him out” for not repaying the loan, the email exchange did not rise to the level of contract modification required by the terms of the Promissory Note,[3] or established by law. The email exchange only showed that the Lender was looking for some good faith from his friend — and his friend couldn’t even do that much (he couldn’t even live up to the supposed offer he made, as evidenced from his small, irregular payments). The email exchange did not constitute an enforceable, written modification setting forth the terms of any extension of the repayment terms of the note.[4]

In JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v Galt Group, Inc., 84 AD3d 1028, 1029-30 [2d Dept 2011], the court rejected a similar claim, that emails were alleged to have modified the terms of a note, holding:

To make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law in an action to recover on a note, and on a guaranty thereof, a plaintiff must establish “the existence of a note and guaranty and the defendants’ failure to make payments according to their terms” (Verela v. Citrus Lake Dev., Inc., 53 A.D.3d 574, 575, 862 N.Y.S.2d 96; see Gullery v. Imburgio, 74 A.D.3d 1022, 905 N.Y.S.2d 221). Here, Chase submitted the SBA Loan documents, including the relevant promissory notes, the personal guaranties, and evidence of the defendants’ default, which together established its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on the complaint.

Once Chase established its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, “[t]he burden then shifted to the defendant[s] to establish by admissible evidence the existence of a triable issue of fact with respect to a bona fide defense” (Gullery v. Imburgio, 74 A.D.3d at 1022, 905 N.Y.S.2d 221; see Verela v. Citrus Lake Dev., Inc., 53 A.D.3d at 575, 862 N.Y.S.2d 96). The defendants did not contest the validity of any of the agreements, notes, or guaranties, nor did they dispute that they were in default. Instead, they submitted certain e-mails into evidence, and argued that they had entered into yet another agreement with Chase — a payoff/paydown agreement — by which Chase agreed to refrain from prosecuting the instant action while the defendants were given an apparently unlimited time to obtain a refinancing loan. Contrary to their contention, however, the Supreme Court correctly concluded that the e-mails contained no evidence of any such agreement between Chase and the defendants.

The Borrower’s expressions of hopes and aspirations to repay the loan set forth in emails, while perhaps well-intended, did not amount to a modification of the terms of the Promissory Note. The Lender was well within his rights to commence this action at the time he did, as the cause of action on the note accrued and the action was timely commenced, giving credit for all payments made. The emails, at best, presented his friend with an opportunity to “do the right thing” and repay the debt.[5] It was urged that the emails ought not be interpreted as a binding modification or waiver of any rights.

Doctrines of waiver and estoppel were inapplicable

The Borrower also asserted affirmative defenses that the action was barred by the doctrines of waiver and/or estoppel. In seeking dismissal of these affirmative defenses, the Lender suggested that these were inapposite to the facts established in this matter and there was no evidentiary basis upon which they could be supported.

The essence of a waiver is when a party intentionally relinquishes a known right. It is well settled that when there is a no oral modification clause, the doctrines of waiver, release and estoppel do not apply. (“Waiver is an intentional relinquishment of a known right and should not be lightly presumed”) Gilbert Frank Corp. v. Fed. Ins. Co., 70 N.Y.2d 966, 968 [1988]; Brooklyn Fed. Saving Bank v 9096 Meserole St. Realty LLC, 29 Misc 3d 1220(A) [Kings Sup Ct 2010]. In this case, the Promissory Note clearly contained a provision that no term of the Note may be waived, modified or amended except by instrument in writing signed by both parties.

“Equitable estoppel prevents one from denying his own expressed or implied admission which has in good faith been accepted and acted upon by another, and the elements of estoppel are with respect to the party estopped: conduct which amounts to a false representation or concealment of material facts, intention that such conduct will be acted upon by the other party, and knowledge of the real facts. The party asserting estoppel must show with respect to himself: lack of knowledge of the true facts, reliance upon the conduct of the party estopped, and a prejudicial change in his position.” Airco Alloys Div., Airco Inc. v Niagara Mohawk Power Corp., 76 AD2d 68, 71-72 [4th Dept 1980]. In the instant matter, the Borrower did not produce any evidence that there was an expressed or implied admission that was in good faith accepted and acted upon by another. Moreover, there was no false representation or concealment of a material fact. There was simply a binding Promissory Note, and nonperformance by the Borrower.

In granting summary judgment in favor of the Lender, the judge directed that the Borrower be held liable for the balance due on the Promissory Note. The judge also dismissed the affirmative defenses set forth in the answer.

End Notes

[1] “A promissory note is an instrument for the payment of money only, provided that it contains an unconditional promise by the borrower to pay the lender over a stated period of time.” Estate of Hansraj v. Sukhu, 145 A.D.3d 755, 755, 43 N.Y.S.3d 127, quoting Lugli v. Johnston, 78 A.D.3d 1133, 1134, 912 N.Y.S.2d 108).

[2] § 83:46. Time instruments: Maker and acceptor, 4C N.Y.Prac., Com. Litig. in New York State Courts § 83:46 (4th ed.) (“A cause of action on an instrument payable on a specified date or the occurrence of a specified event (a time instrument) accrues against the instrument’s maker (if a note) or acceptor (if a draft) on the day after the specified date or event.”); see, UCC 3-122, which provides in relevant part: “(1) A cause of action against a maker or an acceptor accrues (a) in the case of a time instrument on the day after maturity”)

[3] “No term of this Note may be waived, modified or amended expect by an instrument in writing signed by both of the parties hereto. Any waiver of the terms hereof shall be effective only in the specific instance and for the specific purpose given.”

[4] 22A N.Y. Jur. 2d Contracts § 475 (relevant parts). A contract may be modified if the contract provides for its modification. Fundamental to the establishment of a contract modification is proof of each element requisite to the formulation of a contract. Thus, to be valid under New York law, a contractual modification must satisfy each element of a contract, including offer, acceptance, and consideration. A contract cannot be modified or altered without the consent of all parties thereto. In other words, a contract cannot be modified without the mutual assent of each party. Thus, under general contract rules, an obligation may not be altered without the consent of the party who assumed the obligation. Also, when a contract prohibits modification without the express written consent of a particular party, modification without that party’s express written consent is invalid. Mere negotiations between the parties are insufficient to constitute a modification, but rather must ripen into a mutual, valid, and enforceable agreement to modify the old contract. (emphasis added).

[5] Genger v Genger, 123 AD3d 445, 446 [1st Dept 2014] “[i]ndulgence or leniency in enforcing a debt when due is not an alteration of the contract” (Bier Pension Plan Trust v. Estate of Schneierson, 74 N.Y.2d 312, 316, 546 N.Y.S.2d 824, 545 N.E.2d 1212 [1989]).


Richard A. Klass, Esq.
Your Court Street Lawyer

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Richard A. Klass, Esq., maintains a law firm engaged in civil litigation at 16 Court Street, 28th Floor, Brooklyn, New York. He may be reached at (718) COURT●ST or RichKlass@courtstreetlaw.comcreate new email with any questions.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

© 2022 Richard A. Klass

Scales of justice

Court held that there were questions of fact regarding the continuous representation toll.

In Ray-Roseman v Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman, LLP, 197 AD3d 944 [4th Dept 2021], the court held that there were questions of fact regarding the continuous representation toll of the statute of limitations, holding:

The statute of limitations for a legal malpractice claim is three years (see CPLR 214 [6]; McCoy v. Feinman, 99 N.Y.2d 295, 301, 755 N.Y.S.2d 693, 785 N.E.2d 714 [2002]). Here, plaintiffs correctly concede that defendants met their initial burden of establishing that the malpractice claim insofar as it related to the 2014 loan transaction was commenced beyond the three-year statute of limitations (see generally Rider v. Rainbow Mobile Home Park, LLP, 192 A.D.3d 1561, 1561-1562, 145 N.Y.S.3d 246 [4th Dept. 2021]; U.S. Bank N.A. v. Brown, 186 A.D.3d 1038, 1039, 130 N.Y.S.3d 146 [4th Dept. 2020]). Thus, the burden shifted to plaintiffs to raise a triable issue of fact whether “the statute of limitations was tolled or otherwise inapplicable, or whether … plaintiff[s] actually commenced the action within the applicable limitations period” (U.S. Bank N.A., 186 A.D.3d at 1039, 130 N.Y.S.3d 146 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see generally Rider, 192 A.D.3d at 1562, 145 N.Y.S.3d 246).

We conclude that plaintiffs, in opposition, raised a triable issue of fact whether the continuous representation doctrine applied to toll the statute of limitations with respect to the malpractice claim insofar as it related to the 2014 loan transaction (see generally Carbone v. Brenizer, 148 A.D.3d 1806, 1807, 50 N.Y.S.3d 783 [4th Dept. 2017]). The continuous representation doctrine tolls the limitations period “where there is a mutual understanding of the need for further representation on the specific subject matter underlying the malpractice claim” (McCoy, 99 N.Y.2d at 306, 755 N.Y.S.2d 693, 785 N.E.2d 714), and “ ‘where the continuing representation pertains specifically to [that] matter’ ” (International Electron Devices [USA] LLC v. Menter, Rudin & Trivelpiece, P.C., 71 A.D.3d 1512, 1513, 898 N.Y.S.2d 388 [4th Dept. 2010], quoting Shumsky v. Eisenstein, 96 N.Y.2d 164, 168, 726 N.Y.S.2d 365, 750 N.E.2d 67 [2001]). Here, plaintiffs submitted communication between the Florida attorney and defendants in which the Florida attorney indicated that defendants’ role as New York counsel included “enforcement” of the 2014 loan transaction documents. Moreover, the 2014 loan transaction and the foreclosure proceedings were close in time, as evidenced by plaintiffs’ submission of defendants’ supplemental billing invoices for legal services, which demonstrated a representation from the loan transaction to the foreclosure proceeding without a break. Thus, we conclude that questions of fact exist regarding the extent of defendants’ representation of plaintiffs and, more specifically, whether “enforcement” of the loan documents contemplated a continued representation until the loan was paid in full and the transaction completed.


Richard A. Klass, Esq.
Your Court Street Lawyer

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Richard A. Klass, Esq., maintains a law firm engaged in civil litigation at 16 Court Street, 28th Floor, Brooklyn, New York. He may be reached at (718) COURT●ST or RichKlass@courtstreetlaw.comcreate new email with any questions.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

© 2021 Richard A. Klass

Scales of justice

Failed to submit evidence establishing, prima facie, the absence of at least one essential element of the legal malpractice cause of action.

In Aqua-Trol Corp. v Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, P.A., 197 AD3d 544 [2d Dept 2021], the court reinstated the client’s complaint for legal malpractice against its former attorneys, holding:

To succeed on a motion for summary judgment dismissing a legal malpractice action, a defendant must present evidence in admissible form establishing that at least one of the essential elements of legal malpractice cannot be satisfied (see Buczek v. Dell & Little, LLP, 127 A.D.3d 1121, 1123, 7 N.Y.S.3d 558; Valley Ventures, LLC v. Joseph J. Haspel, PLLC, 102 A.D.3d 955, 956, 958 N.Y.S.2d 604). Those elements require a showing that (1) the attorney failed to exercise the ordinary reasonable skill and knowledge commonly possessed by a member of the legal profession and (2) the attorney’s breach of this duty proximately caused the plaintiff to sustain actual and ascertainable damages (see Bells v. Foster, 83 A.D.3d 876, 877, 922 N.Y.S.2d 124; see also Bua v. Purcell & Ingrao, P.C., 99 A.D.3d 843, 845, 952 N.Y.S.2d 592). The causation element requires a showing that the injured party “ ‘would have prevailed in the underlying action or would not have incurred any damages, but for the lawyer’s negligence’ ” (Bells v. Foster, 83 A.D.3d at 877, 922 N.Y.S.2d 124, quoting Kennedy v. H. Bruce Fischer, Esq., P.C., 78 A.D.3d 1016, 1018, 912 N.Y.S.2d 590). The defendant must affirmatively demonstrate the absence of one of the elements of legal malpractice, rather than merely pointing out gaps in the plaintiff’s proof (see Quantum Corporate Funding, Ltd. v. Ellis, 126 A.D.3d 866, 871, 6 N.Y.S.3d 255).

Here, the judgment must be reversed, as the Supreme Court should have denied Wilentz’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. Wilentz failed to submit evidence establishing, prima facie, the absence of at least one essential element of the legal malpractice cause of action (see Bells v. Foster, 83 A.D.3d at 877, 922 N.Y.S.2d 124; see also Biberaj v. Acocella, 120 A.D.3d 1285, 1287, 993 N.Y.S.2d 64). Since Wilentz failed to make its prima facie showing, we do not need to consider the sufficiency of Aqua–Trol’s opposition papers (see Winegrad v. New York Univ. Med. Ctr., 64 N.Y.2d 851, 853, 487 N.Y.S.2d 316, 476 N.E.2d 642).

The Supreme Court, however, properly denied Aqua–Trol’s cross motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability. Aqua–Trol did not establish, prima facie, that Wilentz failed to exercise the ordinary reasonable skill and knowledge commonly possessed by a member of the legal profession (see Schottland v. Brown Harris Stevens Brooklyn, LLC, 137 A.D.3d 995, 996–997, 27 N.Y.S.3d 259; Bells v. Foster, 83 A.D.3d at 877, 922 N.Y.S.2d 124). Since Aqua–Trol failed to satisfy its prima facie burden, we need not consider the sufficiency of Wilentz’s opposition papers (see Winegrad v. New York Univ. Med. Ctr., 64 N.Y.2d at 853, 487 N.Y.S.2d 316, 476 N.E.2d 642).


Richard A. Klass, Esq.
Your Court Street Lawyer

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Richard A. Klass, Esq., maintains a law firm engaged in civil litigation at 16 Court Street, 28th Floor, Brooklyn, New York. He may be reached at (718) COURT●ST or RichKlass@courtstreetlaw.comcreate new email with any questions.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

© 2021 Richard A. Klass

Scales of justice

Court denied dismissal of the client’s legal malpractice claim based on the statute of limitations.

In Golden Jubilee Realty, LLC v Castro, 196 AD3d 680 [2d Dept 2021], the court denied dismissal of the client’s legal malpractice claim based on the statute of limitations, holding:

“In moving to dismiss a cause of action pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(5) as barred by the applicable statute of limitations, the moving defendant bears the initial burden of demonstrating, prima facie, that the time within which to commence the cause of action has expired. The burden then shifts to the plaintiff to raise a question of fact as to whether the statute of limitations is tolled or is otherwise inapplicable” (Stein Indus., Inc. v. Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman, LLP, 149 A.D.3d 788, 789, 51 N.Y.S.3d 183 [citations omitted]). “An action to recover damages for legal malpractice must be commenced within three years after the accrual of the cause of action” (Bullfrog, LLC v. Nolan, 102 A.D.3d 719, 719–720, 959 N.Y.S.2d 212; see CPLR 214[6]). “A legal malpractice claim accrues ‘when all the facts necessary to the cause of action have occurred and an injured party can obtain relief in court’ ” (McCoy v. Feinman, 99 N.Y.2d 295, 301, 755 N.Y.S.2d 693, 785 N.E.2d 714, quoting Ackerman v. Price Waterhouse, 84 N.Y.2d 535, 541, 620 N.Y.S.2d 318, 644 N.E.2d 1009).


Richard A. Klass, Esq.
Your Court Street Lawyer

#CourtStreetLawyer #legalmalpractice #statuteoflimitations

Richard A. Klass, Esq., maintains a law firm engaged in civil litigation at 16 Court Street, 28th Floor, Brooklyn, New York. He may be reached at (718) COURT●ST or RichKlass@courtstreetlaw.comcreate new email with any questions.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

© 2021 Richard A. Klass

Scales of justice

An attorney-client relationship may exist even if there’s no written retainer agreement.

Edelman v Berman, 195 AD3d 995 [2d Dept 2021] serves as a good reminder that, just because there is no written retainer agreement, does not mean that an attorney-client relationship does not possibly exist. The court held:

An attorney-client relationship may arise even in the absence of a written retainer agreement, and a court must look to the words and actions of the parties to determine whether such a relationship exists (see Tropp v. Lumer, 23 A.D.3d 550, 551, 806 N.Y.S.2d 599). Here, according the plaintiff the benefit of every favorable inference, she sufficiently alleged the existence of an attorney-client relationship (see Hall v. Hobbick, 192 A.D.3d 776, 144 N.Y.S.3d 88; see also Tropp v. Lumer, 23 A.D.3d at 551, 806 N.Y.S.2d 599).


Richard A. Klass, Esq.
Your Court Street Lawyer

#CourtStreetLawyer #retainer-agreement

Richard A. Klass, Esq., maintains a law firm engaged in civil litigation at 16 Court Street, 28th Floor, Brooklyn, New York. He may be reached at (718) COURT●ST or RichKlass@courtstreetlaw.comcreate new email with any questions.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

© 2021 Richard A. Klass

Scales of justice

Out of State, Out of Mind: The partial demise of the “Separate Entity” rule?

The judgment debtor and his wife maintained a joint account at JPMorgan Chase Bank at a branch located in New York. The judgment creditor’s attorney served a restraining notice on Chase’s Court Orders and Levies Department located in Ohio. The bank restrained the joint account and the judgment debtor squawked that the restraining notice should not be honored due to the “separate entity” rule.

The “Separate Entity” Rule

The “Separate Entity” rule derived from a century-old case in which the New York State Court of Appeals held that different branches of a bank are considered separate and distinct from one another. Later court decisions interpreted this rule in the context of judgment enforcement as meaning that a restraining notice served on one bank branch did not extend to the deposits held by a debtor in another branch. Therefore, a judgment creditor had to serve the restraining notice on the specific bank branch in which the debtor maintained an account.

In Koehler v. Bank of Bermuda Ltd., 12 NY3d 533 [2009], the court held that a turnover order directing a garnishee bank in Bermuda was enforceable because the bank had a presence through a subsidiary in New York. The court held that “a court sitting in New York that has personal jurisdiction over a garnishee bank can order the bank to produce stock certificates located outside New York pursuant to CPLR 5225(b).”

In Motorola Credit Corp. v. Standard Chartered Bank, 24 NY3d 149 [2014], the court clarified its prior opinion by holding that “service of a restraining notice on a garnishee bank’s New York branch is ineffective under the separate entity rule to freeze assets held in the bank’s foreign branches.” The court recognized that “abolition of the separate entity rule would result in serious consequences in the realm of international banking to the detriment of New York’s preeminence in global financial affairs.”

Service on Chase’s Court Orders and Levies Department upheld

The judgment creditor retained Richard A. Klass, Esq., Your Court Street Lawyer, to commence a turnover proceeding to obtain a court order for the bank to turn over the moneys restrained in the joint bank account maintained by the judgment debtor and his wife. Both the judgment debtor and his wife filed opposition papers claiming that, pursuant to the separate entity rule, the restraining notice should be declared ineffective since the specific branch in which they maintained their account was not served but rather at the bank’s Court Orders and Levies Department in Ohio.

In reply, the creditor countered that the restraining notice was served at the Court Orders and Levies Department according to the bank’s own instructions. The bank accepted the notice and recognized the restraint. Further, the respondents waived any affirmative defense of lack of personal jurisdiction.

The judge determined that the restraining notice was effective against the debtor’s account:

“A fair reading of Motorola indicates the Court of Appeal’s primary concern over international banking policies, not the type of transaction the parties in this proceeding present with respect to the assets held by JPMorgan in New York. Specifically, it is readily apparent that JPMorgan should not fear the risks of competing claims and double liability, nor the issue of legal and regulatory schemes inasmuch as this Court’s primary concern is the property restrained in New York.”

Accordingly, the judge granted the application to continue “the imposition of a restraining notice against the judgment debtor’s bank account to secure funds for later transfer to the judgment creditor through a sheriff’s execution or turnover proceeding.”

At this point, almost all banks maintain central subpoena/legal departments at which restraining notices may be served. The practical effect of the partial abrogation of the separate entity rule is that a creditor is able to serve a bank’s central department without having to serve a particular branch where the debtor maintains an account.


Richard A. Klass, Esq.
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Richard A. Klass, Esq., maintains a law firm engaged in civil litigation at 16 Court Street, 28th Floor, Brooklyn, New York. He may be reached at (718) COURT●ST or RichKlass@courtstreetlaw.comcreate new email with any questions.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

© 2021 Richard A. Klass

Scales of justice

Question as to standing, sufficient to justify denial of the motion to dismiss this legal malpractice case.

In Golden Jubilee Realty, LLC v Castro, 196 AD3d 680, 681-82 [2d Dept 2021], the court held that the plaintiff raised a question as to standing to sue the attorney for malpractice sufficient to justify denial of the attorney’s motion to dismiss the case.

The Supreme Court erred in granting that branch of Pacht’s motion which was pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (3) to dismiss the amended complaint insofar as asserted against him based on Golden Jubilee’s alleged lack of standing. “On a defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint based upon the plaintiff’s alleged lack of standing, the burden is on the moving defendant to establish, prima facie, the plaintiff’s lack of standing” (BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP v Rychik, 161 AD3d 924, 925 [2018]; see CPLR 3211 [a] [3]; Gobindram v Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, P.C., 175 AD3d 586, 591 [2019]). “To defeat a defendant’s motion, the plaintiff has no burden of establishing its standing as a matter of law; rather, the motion will be defeated if the plaintiff’s submissions raise a question of fact as to its standing” (Deutsche Bank Trust Co. Ams. v Vitellas, 131 AD3d 52, 60 [2015]). As relevant to this appeal, in actions where a plaintiff voluntarily commenced a bankruptcy proceeding prior to the instant action, “[t]he failure of a party to disclose a cause of action as an asset in a prior bankruptcy proceeding, which the party knew or should have known existed at the time of that proceeding, deprives him or her of ‘the legal capacity to sue subsequently on that cause of action’ ” (Potruch & Daab, LLC v Abraham, 97 AD3d 646, 647 [2012], quoting Whelan v Longo, 23 AD3d 459, 460 [2005], affd 7 NY3d 821 [2006]; see Nicke v Schwartzapfel Partners, P.C., 148 AD3d 1168, 1170 [2017]).

Here, Pacht’s submissions in support of his motion established that Golden Jubilee filed a bankruptcy petition in March 2016 which did not list the claim against Pacht as an asset, and that Golden Jubilee knew or should have known of the existence of its claim against Pacht prior to the filing of the bankruptcy petition (see Keegan v Moriarty-Morris, 153 AD3d 683, 684 [2017]; Positive Influence Fashion v City of New York, 2 AD3d 606, 606-607 [2003]). Accordingly, Pacht met his burden of establishing, prima facie, that Golden Jubilee lacked standing to bring this action against him (see Potruch & Daab, LLC v Abraham, 97 AD3d at 647). In opposition, however, the plaintiffs raised a question of fact as to Golden Jubilee’s standing, thus warranting denial of that branch of Pacht’s motion which was pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (3) to dismiss the amended complaint insofar as asserted against him based on Golden Jubilee’s alleged lack of standing (see Arch Bay Holdings, LLC-Series 2010B v Smith, 136 AD3d 719, 720 [2016]). The plaintiffs’ submissions established that Golden Jubilee’s bankruptcy petition was dismissed in January 2017. Thus, all property owned by Golden Jubilee, including the present claim against Pacht, revested with Golden Jubilee upon dismissal of the bankruptcy petition (see 11 USC §§ 349, 541 [a] [1]; Crawford v Franklin Credit Mgt. Corp., 758 F3d 473, 485 [2d Cir 2014]).


Richard A. Klass, Esq.
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Richard A. Klass, Esq., maintains a law firm engaged in civil litigation at 16 Court Street, 28th Floor, Brooklyn, New York. He may be reached at (718) COURT●ST or RichKlass@courtstreetlaw.comcreate new email with any questions.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

© 2021 Richard A. Klass

Scales of justice

On a motion for summary judgment, movant must show that there are no triable issues of fact.

Fricano v Law Offices of Tisha Adams, LLC, 194 AD3d 1016 [2d Dept 2021] serves as a reminder that, on a motion for summary judgment, the movant must show that there are no triable issues of fact. The court held:

‘In an action to recover damages for legal malpractice, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the attorney failed to exercise the ordinary reasonable skill and knowledge commonly possessed by a member of the legal profession and that the attorney’s breach of this duty proximately caused plaintiff to sustain actual and ascertainable damages’ ” (Iannucci v. Kucker & Bruh, LLP, 161 A.D.3d 959, 960, 77 N.Y.S.3d 118, quoting Rudolf v. Shayne, Dachs, Stanisci, Corker & Sauer, 8 N.Y.3d 438, 442, 835 N.Y.S.2d 534, 867 N.E.2d 385). It is the defendants’ burden, as the party moving for summary judgment, to demonstrate their prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by submitting evidence conclusively establishing their defense to the action; merely pointing out gaps in the plaintiffs’ proof is not sufficient (see Bakcheva v. Law Off. of Stein & Assoc., 169 A.D.3d 624, 625, 93 N.Y.S.3d 388; Iannucci v. Kucker & Bruh, LLP, 161 A.D.3d at 960, 77 N.Y.S.3d 118). In determining a motion for summary judgment, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant (see Pearson v. Dix McBride, LLC, 63 A.D.3d 895, 895, 883 N.Y.S.2d 53). “The function of the court on a motion for summary judgment is not to resolve issues of fact or determine matters of credibility, but merely to determine whether such issues exist” (id. at 895, 883 N.Y.S.2d 53 [internal quotation marks omitted]).

Here, the defendants failed to eliminate triable issues of fact as to whether their attorney-client relationship with Fricano included litigation of her insurance claim. The undated copy of an alleged retainer agreement between the defendants and Fricano, which is not signed by Adams, submitted in support of the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, failed to establish, prima facie, that the defendants did not undertake to represent Fricano in litigation against Travco (see Terio v. Spodek, 63 A.D.3d at 721, 880 N.Y.S.2d 679). Further, while the defendants met their initial burden of demonstrating that they had no contract or relationship with Lakeside (see Moran v. Hurst, 32 A.D.3d 909, 911, 822 N.Y.S.2d 564), viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, the plaintiffs’ submissions in opposition raised a triable issue of fact as to whether Adams’s words and actions created a contract and/or an attorney-client relationship between the defendants and both Fricano and Lakeside (see Biberaj v. Acocella, 120 A.D.3d 1285, 1287, 993 N.Y.S.2d 64; Terio v. Spodek, 63 A.D.3d at 721, 880 N.Y.S.2d 679).

The defendants also failed to establish, as a matter of law, that the plaintiffs could not have prevailed in an action against Travco (see Blumencranz v. Botter, 182 A.D.3d 568, 569, 120 N.Y.S.3d 829; see also 83 Willow, LLC v. Apollo, 187 A.D.3d 563, 564, 135 N.Y.S.3d 11). In support of their motion for summary judgment, the defendants did not submit a complete copy of the insurance policy, nor a copy of the underlying application for insurance coverage, and thus did not prove that Fricano misrepresented herself to Travco such that the plaintiffs would not have succeeded in a litigation disputing Travco’s denial of their claim. Moreover, even if there were no dispute as to whether Fricano made the alleged misrepresentation, the materiality of such alleged misrepresentation typically is a question of fact for the jury (see Liang v. Progressive Cas. Ins. Co., 172 A.D.3d 696, 698, 99 N.Y.S.3d 449; Zilkha v. Mutual Life Ins. Co. of N.Y., 287 A.D.2d 713, 714, 732 N.Y.S.2d 51).


Richard A. Klass, Esq.
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Richard A. Klass, Esq., maintains a law firm engaged in civil litigation at 16 Court Street, 28th Floor, Brooklyn, New York. He may be reached at (718) COURT●ST or RichKlass@courtstreetlaw.comcreate new email with any questions.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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Court stayed the client’s action for legal malpractice pending arbitration.

In Protostorm, Inc. v Foley & Lardner LLP, 193 AD3d 486 [1st Dept 2021], the court stayed the client’s action for legal malpractice pending arbitration between the client and attorney:

“Where there is no substantial question whether a valid agreement [to arbitrate] was made or complied with, … the court shall direct the parties to arbitrate” and its order “shall operate to stay a pending … action” (CPLR 7503[a] [emphasis added]). Once a valid arbitration agreement is identified, an arbitration should only be stayed “when the sole matter sought to be submitted to arbitration is clearly beyond the arbitrator’s power” (Silverman v. Benmor Coats, Inc., 61 N.Y.2d 299, 309, 473 N.Y.S.2d 774, 461 N.E.2d 1261 [1984] [emphasis added]). Further, where “arbitrable and nonarbitrable claims are inextricably interwoven, the proper course is to stay judicial proceedings pending completion of the arbitration, particularly where … the determination of issues in arbitration may well dispose of nonarbitrable matters” (Cohen v. Ark Asset Holdings, Inc., 268 A.D.2d 285, 286, 701 N.Y.S.2d 385 [1st Dept. 2000]; see also Lake Harbor Advisors, LLC v. Settlement Servs. Arbitration and Mediation, Inc., 175 A.D.3d 479, 105 N.Y.S.3d 520 [2d Dept. 2019]; Monotube Pile Corp. v. Pile Foundation Constr. Corp., 269 A.D.2d 531, 703 N.Y.S.2d 234 [2d Dept. 2000]).

There is no dispute that there is a valid agreement between the parties to arbitrate any dispute regarding unpaid fees. Thus, the court must compel arbitration of defendants’ claim for unpaid fees and stay this action pending completion of the arbitration (CPLR 7503[a]). Moreover, because plaintiff’s nonarbitrable malpractice claim is inextricably intertwined with the arbitrable claim for unpaid fees, the proper course is to stay the action pending completion of the arbitration (see Cohen, 268 A.D.2d at 286, 701 N.Y.S.2d 385; Lake Harbor Advisors, LLC, 175 A.D.3d at 479, 105 N.Y.S.3d 520; Monotube Pile Corp., 269 A.D.2d at 531, 703 N.Y.S.2d 234).

To the extent plaintiff argues that it cannot be forced to arbitrate its malpractice claim because it did not explicitly agree to do so, both the First and Second Departments have clearly found that a nonarbitrable issue can be decided in an arbitration when it is inextricably intertwined with an arbitrable issue, particularly where, as here, the determination of the arbitrable unpaid fees claim may dispose of the nonarbitrable malpractice claim (see Cohen, 268 A.D.2d at 286, 701 N.Y.S.2d 385; Lake Harbor Advisors, LLC, 175 A.D.3d at 480, 105 N.Y.S.3d 520; Monotube Pile Corp., 269 A.D.2d at 531–532, 703 N.Y.S.2d 234).


Richard A. Klass, Esq.
Your Court Street Lawyer

#CourtStreetLawyer #LegalMalpractice #arbitrate

Richard A. Klass, Esq., maintains a law firm engaged in civil litigation at 16 Court Street, 28th Floor, Brooklyn, New York. He may be reached at (718) COURT●ST or RichKlass@courtstreetlaw.comcreate new email with any questions.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

© 2021 Richard A. Klass

Scales of justice