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.
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.

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Scales of justice

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

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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

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Richard Klass in the news: Read at Law.com: “Tinder, Match.com in $50M Class Action Crosshairs”

Richard Klass in the news:
 
Law.com recently published an article by Michael A. Mora, entitled “Love & Arbitration: Tinder, Match.com in $50M Class Action Crosshairs as Defense Braces for Attempt at Alternative Dispute Resolution.”
 
Published on July 13, 2021, the story reports that…”A South Florida litigator filed a class action seeking over $50 million in damages in New York federal court against the company behind several of the top online dating services.”

It continues:

“Marcus Corwin, the lead attorney and partner at Corwin Law in Boca Raton, represents Neal D’Alessio, a class representative….
 
“…The class action complaint alleges the defendant, Match Group LLC, which owns Match.com and other dating services, including Tinder, committed fraud, breach of contract, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing….”
 
The article reports that D’Alessio’s counsel includes Richard Klass, Your Court Street Lawyer:
“D’Alessio’s counsel, which also includes Richard Klass, a New York solo practitioner, stated in the complaint, that…”
 
Read the article here at Law.com.
 

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

Plaintiff/client failed to plead factual allegations sufficient to show the claims were not merely speculative and conclusory.

The court in Denisco v Uysal, 195 AD3d 989, 990-91 [2d Dept 2021] found that the plaintiff/client failed to plead factual allegations sufficient to show the claims were not merely speculative and conclusory, holding:

On a motion to dismiss pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (7), the court must afford the complaint a liberal construction, accept the facts as alleged in the complaint as true, accord the plaintiff the benefit of every possible favorable inference, and determine only whether the facts as alleged fit within any cognizable legal theory (see Leon v Martinez, 84 NY2d 83, 87-88 [1994]).

“A cause of action to recover damages for legal malpractice requires proof of three elements: (1) that the defendant failed to exercise that degree of care, skill, and diligence commonly possessed and exercised by an ordinary member of the legal community, (2) that such negligence was the proximate cause of the actual damages sustained by the plaintiff, and (3) that, but for the defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff would have been successful in the underlying action” (4777 Food Servs. Corp. v Anthony P. Gallo, P.C., 150 AD3d 1054, 1055 [2017]; see Rudolf v Shayne, Dachs, Stanisci, Corker & Sauer, 8 NY3d 438, 442 [2007]). “To establish causation in a legal malpractice action, ‘a plaintiff must show that he or she would have prevailed in the underlying action or would not have incurred any damages, but for the lawyer’s negligence’ ” (Katsoris v Bodnar & Milone, LLP, 186 AD3d 1504, 1505 [2020], quoting Rudolf v Shayne, Dachs, Stanisci, Corker & Sauer, 8 NY3d at 442). “Conclusory allegations of damages or injuries predicated on speculation cannot suffice for a malpractice action, and dismissal is warranted where the allegations in the complaint are merely conclusory and speculative” (Bua v Purcell & Ingrao, P.C., 99 AD3d 843, 848 [2012] [citations omitted]; see Janker v Silver, Forrester & Lesser, P.C., 135 AD3d 908, 909-910 [2016]).

Here, even accepting the facts alleged in the complaint, as amplified by the plaintiff’s affidavit, as true, and according the plaintiff the benefit of every possible favorable inference (see Leon v Martinez, 84 NY2d at 87), the plaintiff failed to plead specific factual allegations demonstrating that, but for the defendants’ alleged negligence, there would have been a more favorable outcome on his workers’ compensation claim (see Katsoris v Bodnar & Milone, LLP, 186 AD3d 1504 [2020]; Janker v Silver, Forrester & Lesser, P.C., 135 AD3d at 910). The plaintiff’s allegations that the Judge who denied his workers’ compensation claim and/or the Workers’ Compensation Board would have credited certain evidence, including the testimony of alleged eyewitnesses, if such evidence had been presented by the defendants were speculative and conclusory (see Janker v Silver, Forrester & Lesser, P.C., 135 AD3d at 910; Cusimano v Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker LLP, 118 AD3d 542 [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

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Reminder to Attorneys: explicitly confirm when representation of the client has terminated.

Schwenger v Weitz, Kleinick & Weitz, LLP, 192 AD3d 606, 607 [1st Dept 2021] serves as a good reminder to attorneys to confirm that representation of the client has terminated in explicit terms:

Where, as here, defendants were retained in writing to represent plaintiff in all proceedings before the Workers’ Compensation Board related to his claim, plaintiff made a sufficient showing of a continuing relationship with regard to that proceeding to support his contention of continuous representation (Shumsky v. Eisenstein, 96 N.Y.2d 164, 168, 726 N.Y.S.2d 365, 750 N.E.2d 67 [2001]). Defendants’ statement in an email that they would not pursue an appeal to the Third Department after having lost before the Workers’ Compensation appellate panel on the issue of whether plaintiff was an employee, did not “unequivocally” terminate the representation in the workers’ compensation matter, which remained pending following the administrative review (Riley v. Segan, Nemerov & Singer, P.C., 82 A.D.3d 572, 572, 918 N.Y.S.2d 488 [1st Dept. 2011]).


Richard A. Klass, Esq.
Your Court Street Lawyer

#CourtStreetLawyer #LegalMalpractice #representation

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

[Her] deposition testimony in the underlying case was contrary to her opposition to the law firm’s motion for summary judgment.

In Walker v Shaevitz & Shaevitz, Esqs., 192 AD3d 1062 [2d Dept 2021], the court dismissed the client’s legal malpractice action because her deposition testimony in the underlying case was contrary to her opposition to the law firm’s motion for summary judgment. The court held:

The Supreme Court, upon reargument, properly granted the law firm’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. “ ‘In moving for summary judgment dismissing a complaint alleging legal malpractice, a defendant must present evidence establishing, prima facie, that it did not breach the duty to exercise the ordinary reasonable skill and knowledge commonly possessed by a member of the legal profession, or that the plaintiff did not sustain actual and ascertainable damages as a result of such deviation’ ” (Dominguez v. Mirman, Markovits & Landau, P.C., 180 A.D.3d 646, 647, 119 N.Y.S.3d 136, quoting Mazzurco v. Gordon, 173 A.D.3d 1003, 1003, 100 N.Y.S.3d 894). Here, the law firm established its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law through the submission of the transcript of Walker’s deposition testimony in the underlying action which showed that she could not identify the cause of her fall (see Colini v. Stino, Inc., 186 A.D.3d 1610, 1611, 129 N.Y.S.3d 826; Ash v. City of New York, 109 A.D.3d 854, 856, 972 N.Y.S.2d 594) and that, even if the law firm had breached its duty to the plaintiffs, they would not have prevailed in the underlying action because Walker was unable to identify the cause of her fall without engaging in speculation (see Hamoudeh v. Mandel, 62 A.D.3d 948, 949, 880 N.Y.S.2d 674; see also Markowitz v. Kurzman Eisenberg Corbin Lever & Goodman, LLP, 82 A.D.3d 719, 719, 917 N.Y.S.2d 683).

In opposition, the plaintiffs failed to raise a triable issue of fact. Walker’s deposition testimony and affidavit in this action are contrary to her deposition testimony in the underlying action and merely raised a feigned issue of fact insufficient to defeat summary judgment (see Mallen v. Dekalb Corp., 181 A.D.3d 669, 670, 121 N.Y.S.3d 331; Dominguez v. Mirman, Markovits & Landau, P.C., 180 A.D.3d at 648, 119 N.Y.S.3d 136).

The Supreme Court also properly denied the plaintiffs’ cross motion pursuant to CPLR 3126 to impose sanctions on the law firm for spoliation. A party seeking sanctions for spoliation of evidence must demonstrate “that the party having control over the evidence possessed an obligation to preserve it at the time of its destruction, that the evidence was destroyed with a culpable state of mind, and that the destroyed evidence was relevant to the party’s claim … such that the trier of fact could find that the evidence would support that claim” (Pegasus Aviation I, Inc. v. Varig Logistica S.A., 26 N.Y.3d 543, 547, 26 N.Y.S.3d 218, 46 N.E.3d 601 [internal quotation marks omitted]). Here, the plaintiffs’ reliance on the doctrine of spoliation is misplaced as the law firm was never in possession or control of the restaurant, its lighting system, or its renovation (see Burbige v. Siben & Ferber, 115 A.D.3d 632, 633, 981 N.Y.S.2d 537). Moreover, to the extent that the plaintiffs assert an independent cause of action for negligent spoliation, it is without merit as no such tort is recognized in New York law (see Vargas v. Crown Container Co., Inc., 114 A.D.3d 762, 764, 980 N.Y.S.2d 500; Hillman v. Sinha, 77 A.D.3d 887, 888, 910 N.Y.S.2d 116).


Richard A. Klass, Esq.
Your Court Street Lawyer

#CourtStreetLawyer #LegalMalpractice #litigation

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

Caveat Emptor: “All Houses Wherein Men Have Lived and Died Are Haunted Houses.”

person in exercise clothing looking through magnifying glass at damage in home. Illustrating article by Richard A. Klass about Caveat Emptor

The buyer of a Brooklyn building sued the seller for fraud and breach of contract after the closing of title. The buyer made several claims against the seller, including that the roof was leaking, it wasn’t new, and the construction and renovations performed on the building were shoddy and done only to quickly “flip” the property. The buyer also claimed that the tenant’s signed estoppel certificate was false. The buyer’s attorney claimed that no ordinary amount of due diligence would have revealed that the roof was leaking; only destructive testing done prior to closing would have shown water intrusion or mold. The seller’s position was that any alleged defects in connection with the sale of the building could have been raised before the closing of title. Once the closing took place, any alleged defects were waived; the representations in the contract of sale merged with the transfer of title.

Disclaimers in the Contract of Sale

In the contract of sale between the seller and buyer, there were numerous clauses that contained specific disclaimers.[1] Among these disclaimers was the following one (which is fairly typical in real estate contracts):

The Purchaser acknowledges that they have physically inspected the Premises prior to signing this Contract and are aware of the physical condition of the Premises and agree to take the Premises in “AS IS CONDITION” in its present physical condition. Purchaser acknowledges that the Seller has made no representation or warranties and concerning the physical condition of the Premises other than those that are specifically set forth herein.

Doctrine of Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware!

The seller retained Richard A. Klass, Esq., Your Court Street Lawyer, to defend the lawsuit brought by the buyer. A motion to dismiss the case was filed based on several legal arguments, first and foremost being the defense of caveat emptor (meaning that the buyer was responsible for checking the quality of his purchase).

New York adheres to the caveat emptor doctrine and imposes no duty on the seller to disclose any information concerning the premises when the parties deal at arm’s length, unless there is some conduct on the part of the seller which constitutes active concealment. Platzman v. Morris, 283 AD2d 561 [2 Dept. 2001]. As held by the Second Department in London v. Courduff, 141 AD2d 803 [2d Dept. 1988], “The buyer has the duty to satisfy himself as to the quality of his bargain pursuant to the doctrine of caveat emptor, which in New York State still applies to real estate transactions.”

As held in Simone v Homecheck Real Estate Services, Inc., 42 AD3d 518, 521 [2d Dept 2007], “Where the contract specifically disclaims the existence of warranties or representations, a cause of action alleging breach of contract based on such a warranty or representation cannot be maintained (see Bedowitz v Farrell Dev. Co., 289 AD2d 432 [2001]). Here, the contract of sale specifically provided that the premises had been inspected by the buyer and was being sold ‘as is’ without warranty as to condition, express or implied. Furthermore, a specific merger clause is contained in the rider to the contract and precludes the buyer from claiming that he relied on any of the sellers’ alleged misrepresentations (see London v Courduff, supra). In addition, because title to the property had closed and the deed was delivered, the doctrine of merger extinguished any claim the buyer may have had regarding the contract of sale (see Ka Foon Lo v Curis, 29 AD3d 525 [2006]). Hence, the cause of action to recover for breach of contract cannot be maintained and should have been dismissed pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (7).”

Where the contract of sale, as in this case, contains a provision that the plaintiff is fully aware of the condition of the premises based upon his own inspection and is not relying upon any representations of the seller, any subsequent action for fraud is barred. Daly v. Kochanowicz, 67 AD3d 78 [2 Dept. 2009]; Platzman v. Morris, 283 AD2d 561, 563 [2 Dept. 2001] (“Since the contract contained a provision that the plaintiffs were fully aware of the condition of the premises based upon their own inspection and investigation, and not based upon any information or representations, written or oral, made by the sellers, the plaintiffs cannot claim fraud.”).

No ‘latent defect’ exception to the merger doctrine

The buyer argued in opposition to the motion that the merger doctrine did not apply to latent defects (which may only be discovered after occupancy of the premises). He incorrectly cited Fehling v Wicks, 179 Misc 2d 1041 [App Term 1999] as being a decision from the Second Department. It is actually a decision of the Appellate Term, Second Department. More importantly, the Fehling v Wicks decision has been rejected by the Appellate Divisions.

In Arnold v Wilkins, 61 AD3d 1236, 1237 [3d Dept 2009], the court held: “Plaintiffs alternatively contend that the merger doctrine does not apply here because the faulty sewage system was a ‘latent defect.’ In support, they rely on Fehling v. Wicks, 179 Misc.2d 1041, 687 N.Y.S.2d 868 [1999] for the proposition that ‘where the purchaser discovers latent defects which are discoverable only after the purchaser occupies the premises,’ the merger doctrine is inapplicable (id. at 1042, 687 N.Y.S.2d 868). Importantly, however, the purported ‘latent defect’ exception to the merger doctrine has not been adopted by the Appellate Divisions or the Court of Appeals in these circumstances.”

In TIAA Glob. Investments, LLC v One Astoria Sq. LLC, 127 AD3d 75, 85 [1st Dept 2015], the court held (emphasis added):

The merger doctrine in a real estate transaction provides that once the deed is delivered, its terms are all that survive and the purchaser is barred from prosecuting any claims arising out of the contract (Ka Foon Lo v. Curis, 29 A.D.3d 525, 526, 815 N.Y.S.2d 131 [2d Dept.2006] ). The only exception to this rule is where the parties clearly intended that the particular provision of the contract supporting the claim would survive the delivery of the deed (id.). Further, an “as is” clause in a contract to sell real property will ordinarily bar a claim for breach of contract (see Board of Mgrs. of the Chelsea 19 Condominium v. Chelsea 19 Assoc., 73 A.D.3d 581, 581, 905 N.Y.S.2d 8 [1st Dept.2010] ). Plaintiff argues that the merger doctrine does not apply here because of the latent nature of the defects at issue. It further contends that its allegations of deceptive behavior on Seller’s part to mask the true condition of the building render the “as is” clause inoperable.

Although plaintiff cites trial court opinions identifying a latency exception to the merger doctrine, the concept has not been adopted by any of the Appellate Divisions or by the Court of Appeals (see Arnold v. Wilkins, 61 A.D.3d 1236, 1237, 876 N.Y.S.2d 780 [3d Dept.2009]), and we are not adopting it here.

It was urged that the seller was bound to the decisions of the Appellate Divisions, as the Second Department has not opined on the issue yet. See, Summit Const. Services Group, Inc. v Act Abatement, LLC, 34 Misc 3d 823, 831 [Sup Ct 2011] (“The general rule is that trial courts must follow applicable decisions of the Appellate Division in their Department. If there is no decision from the Appellate Division in the Department in which the trial court is located, the trial court must follow the decision of another Department. This is because the Appellate Division is a single statewide court divided into departments for administrative convenience.”)

Seller did not engage in active concealment

The buyer’s attorney also argued that there was active concealment of defects by the seller. The complaint failed to make any allegation that the buyer was somehow thwarted by the seller from conducting any inspections or due diligence which could have discovered the purported defects. It was necessary for the buyer to allege material facts as essential allegations that the seller thwarted any efforts on his part to perform his due diligence. See, Jablonski v Rapalje, 14 AD3d 484, 485 [2d Dept 2005] (“To maintain a cause of action to recover damages for active concealment, the plaintiff must show, in effect, that the seller or the seller’s agents thwarted the plaintiff’s efforts to fulfill his responsibilities fixed by the doctrine of caveat emptor.”)

In Laxer v Edelman, 75 AD3d 584, 586 [2d Dept 2010], the Second Department held:

New York adheres to the doctrine of caveat emptor and imposes no liability on a seller [or the seller’s agent] for failing to disclose information regarding the premises when the parties deal at arm’s length, unless there is some conduct on the part of the seller[‘s agent] which constitutes active concealment” of a defective condition (Simone v Homecheck Real Estate Servs., Inc., 42 AD3d 518, 520 [2007]; see Daly v Kochanowicz, 67 AD3d 78, 87 [2009]; cf. Real Property Law §§ 462, 465). Moreover, even proof of active concealment will not suffice when the plaintiff should have known of the defect (see Richardson v United Funding, Inc., 16 AD3d 570, 571 [2005]). A plaintiff seeking to recover damages for active concealment must show that the defendant “thwarted” the plaintiff’s efforts to fulfill his or her responsibilities imposed by the doctrine of caveat emptor (Kerusa Co. LLC v W10Z/515 Real Estate Ltd. Partnership, 12 NY3d 236, 245 [2009] [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Rozen v 7 Calf Cr., LLC, 52 AD3d 590, 593 [2008]).

Based on the arguments presented, the judge granted the motion to dismiss. The judge held that the “defendants have established that the merger doctrine bars any claims arising out of the contract, requiring dismissal of the plaintiff’s cause of action for breach of contract. In a real estate transaction, the merger doctrine provides that, once title to the property closed and the deed was delivered, any claims that the plaintiff might have had arising from the contract of sale were extinguished.”


End Notes

[1] Section 11(c) stated: Except as otherwise expressly set forth in this contract, none of Seller’s covenants, representations, warranties or other obligations contained in this contract shall survive Closing.

Section 12 stated: Condition of Property. Purchaser acknowledges and represents that Purchaser is fully aware of the physical condition and state of repair of the Premises and of all property included in this sale, based on Purchaser’s own inspection and investigation and not upon any information, data, statements or representations, written or oral, as to the physical condition, state of repair, use, cost or operation or any other matter related to the Premises or the other property included in the sale, given or made by Seller or its representatives, and shall accept the same “as is” except as set forth herein in their present condition and state of repair; subject to reasonable use, wear, tear and natural deterioration between the date hereof and the date of Closing (except as otherwise set forth in paragraph 16(f), without any reduction in the purchase price or claim of any kind for any change in such condition by reason thereof subsequent to the date of this contract. Purchaser and its authorized representatives shall have the right, at reasonable times and upon reasonable notice (by telephone or otherwise) to Seller, to inspect the Premises before Closing.

Section 28 stated: Miscellaneous. (a) All prior understandings, agreements, representations and warranties, oral or written, between Seller and Purchaser are merged in this contract; it completely expresses their full agreement and has been entered into after full investigation, neither party relying upon any statement made by anyone else that is not set forth in this contract.

Rider at Section 12 stated: Tenancies. The purchaser herein agrees to take title to the Premises, SUBJECT TO the following tenancies: NONE. PURCHASER SHALL RECEIVE A CREDIT OF $5,000 FROM SELLER FOR THE LOWER RENT AMOUNTS & SECURITY DEPOSITS.

Rider at Section 15 stated: No representations by Seller. Seller makes no warranties or representations concerning the physical condition, work repairs, renovations, or improvements, if any, income, expenses for operation, taxes or fitness of the Premises except as specifically set forth herein. The Purchaser acknowledges that they have physically inspected the Premises prior to signing this Contract and are aware of the physical condition of the Premises and agree to take the Premises in “AS IS CONDITION” in its present physical condition. Purchaser acknowledges that the Seller has made no representation or warranties and concerning the physical condition of the Premises other than those that are specifically set forth herein. The Seller shall not be bound by or liable for any representations, oral or written, pertaining to the Premises, furnished or made by any real estate broker or salesperson, agent or employee, servant or other, unless same is specifically set forth herein. Notwithstanding, none of the representations, warranties, covenants or other obligations of SELLERS hereunder shall survive the CLOSING, except as expressly provided herein. Acceptance of the deed by PURCHASERS shall be deemed full and complete performance and discharge of every agreement and obligation of SELLERS hereunder, except those, if any, which expressly are stated herein to survive the CLOSING.

Rider at Section 22 stated: Delivery and Acceptance of the Deed. The delivery and acceptance of the deed at closing by the Purchaser shall constitute full compliance by the Seller of all of the terms and conditions of this Contract, and none of the terms and conditions of this Contract shall survive the delivery of the deed unless specifically stated otherwise.

Rider at Section 32 stated: Entire Understanding. This agreement constitutes the entire Contract between the parties. It may not be modified orally or in any other manner except by an agreement in writing signed by the parties hereto.

Rider at Section 38 stated: Property Condition Disclosure Credit. Seller will not provide to the Purchaser the Property Condition Disclosure Statement under Article 14 of the New York Real Property Law. The Purchaser agrees to the $500.00 monetary credit as set forth in section 465(a) of the Property Condition Disclosure Act. By the acceptance of a $500.00 credit, the purchaser waives any failure or misrepresentation whether of not knowing or willful on the part of the Seller. The purchase price reflected herein is net of the $500.00 given by Seller to Purchaser as a credit in lieu of Purchasers receiving a property condition disclosure statement from Sellers.

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.

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© 2021 Richard A. Klass

Scales of justice

Arbitration: non-arbitrable issue inextricably intertwined with an arbitrable issue

The First Department, in Protostorm, Inc. v Foley & Lardner LLP, 193 AD3d 486, 487 [1st Dept 2021], held that a non-arbitrable issue can be decided in an arbitration when the issue is inextricably intertwined with the arbitrable issue. The court held:

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” (Matter of Silverman [Benmor Coats], 61 NY2d 299, 309 [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, 268 AD2d 285, 286 [1st Dept 2000]; see also Lake Harbor Advisors, LLC v Settlement Servs. Arbitration & Mediation, Inc., 175 AD3d 479 [2d Dept 2019]; Matter of Monotube Pile Corp. v Pile Found. Constr. Corp., 269 AD2d 531 [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 AD2d at 286 **2 ; Lake Harbor Advisors, LLC, 175 AD3d at 479; Monotube Pile Corp., 269 AD2d at 531).

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 AD2d at 286; Lake Harbor Advisors, LLC, 175 AD3d at 480; Monotube Pile Corp., 269 AD2d at 531-532).

R. A. Klass
Your Court Street Lawyer

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Continuous Representation Doctrine

Lavelle-Tomko v Aswad & Ingraham, 191 AD3d 1142 [3d Dept 2021] discusses the continuous representation doctrine, holding:

“An action to recover damages arising from legal malpractice must be commenced within three years after accrual” (Zorn v. Gilbert, 8 N.Y.3d 933, 933–934, 834 N.Y.S.2d 702, 866 N.E.2d 1030 [2007] [citation omitted]; see CPLR 214[6]), which occurs at the time of the injury and not at the time that the injury is discovered (see McCoy v. Feinman, 99 N.Y.2d 295, 301, 755 N.Y.S.2d 693, 785 N.E.2d 714 [2002]). In seeking to obtain dismissal of the action based on the statute of limitations, defendants bore the initial burden of demonstrating that the time within which to commence had expired, including establishing the date that the cause of action accrued (see Matter of Steinberg, 183 A.D.3d 1067, 1070, 124 N.Y.S.3d 98 [2020]; Haynes v. Williams, 162 A.D.3d 1377, 1378, 79 N.Y.S.3d 365 [2018], lv denied 32 N.Y.3d 906, 2018 WL 4997517 [2018]; Krog Corp. v. Vanner Group, Inc., 158 A.D.3d 914, 915, 72 N.Y.S.3d 178 [2018]). If defendants met that initial burden, “the burden then shift[ed] to … plaintiff to raise a question of fact as to whether the statute of limitations has been tolled or was otherwise inapplicable” (Krog Corp. v. Vanner Group, Inc., 158 A.D.3d at 916, 72 N.Y.S.3d 178 [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]; see International Electron Devices [USA] LLC v. Menter, Rudin & Trivelpiece, P.C., 71 A.D.3d 1512, 1512, 898 N.Y.S.2d 388 [2010]).

Defendants demonstrated, and plaintiff does not dispute, that her cause of action accrued on August 19, 2007, the date that she executed the settlement agreement in the first action. Plaintiff commenced this action on October 25, 2016, more than nine years after accrual and well beyond the three-year statute of limitations (see CPLR 214[6]). Defendants thus met their initial burden on their motion for summary judgment based on that defense (see Haynes v. Williams, 162 A.D.3d at 1378, 79 N.Y.S.3d 365). The burden then shifted to plaintiff to demonstrate that the statute of limitations was tolled or otherwise inapplicable, or at least that there is a question of fact to prevent summary judgment to defendants on that issue. Similarly, on the portion of plaintiff’s cross motion seeking dismissal of defendants’ statute of limitations defense, plaintiff had to prove as a matter of law that her action is not time-barred (see Red Zone LLC v. Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, 27 N.Y.3d 1048, 1049–1050, 34 N.Y.S.3d 397, 54 N.E.3d 69 [2016]).

To meet her burden, plaintiff primarily relies on the continuous representation doctrine. “This doctrine applies where there is continuing trust and confidence *114 in the relationship between the parties and the attorney’s continuing representation pertains to the specific matter in which the attorney committed the alleged malpractice, not merely the continuity of a general professional relationship” (Deep v. Boies, 53 A.D.3d 948, 950, 863 N.Y.S.2d 269 [2008] [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]; see McCoy v. Feinman, 99 N.Y.2d at 306, 755 N.Y.S.2d 693, 785 N.E.2d 714; Shumsky v. Eisenstein, 96 N.Y.2d 164, 168, 726 N.Y.S.2d 365, 750 N.E.2d 67 [2001]; Deep v. Boies, 121 A.D.3d 1316, 1318, 995 N.Y.S.2d 298 [2014], lv denied 25 N.Y.3d 903, 2015 WL 1526052 [2015]). “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” (Zorn v. Gilbert, 8 N.Y.3d at 934, 834 N.Y.S.2d 702, 866 N.E.2d 1030 [internal quotation marks, ellipsis and citations omitted]). “For the continuous representation doctrine to apply to an action sounding in legal malpractice, there must be clear indicia of an ongoing, continuous, developing, and dependent relationship between the client and the attorney, which often includes an attempt by the attorney to rectify an alleged act of malpractice” (International Electron Devices [USA] LLC v. Menter, Rudin & Trivelpiece, P.C., 71 A.D.3d at 1512–1513, 898 N.Y.S.2d 388 [internal quotation marks, ellipsis, brackets and citations omitted]; see Leeder v. Antonucci, 174 A.D.3d 1469, 1471, 106 N.Y.S.3d 490 [2019]; see also Matter of Lawrence, 24 N.Y.3d 320, 342–343, 998 N.Y.S.2d 698, 23 N.E.3d 965 [2014]; Creative Rest., Inc. v. Dyckman Plumbing & Heating, Inc., 184 A.D.3d 803, 805, 126 N.Y.S.3d 498 [2020]).

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Establishing a cause of action under Judiciary Law Section 487 can be difficult.

Establishing a cause of action under Judiciary Law Section 487 can be difficult. In Long Is. Med. Anesthesiology, P.C. v Rosenberg Fortuna & Laitman, LLP, 191 AD3d 864 [2d Dept 2021], the court dismissed the cause of action, holding:

An attorney is liable under Judiciary Law § 487(1) if he or she “[i]s guilty of any deceit or collusion, or consents to any deceit or collusion, with intent to deceive the court or any party.” “ ‘A cause of action alleging a violation of Judiciary Law § 487 must be pleaded with specificity’ ” (Sammy v. Haupel, 170 A.D.3d 1224, 1225, 97 N.Y.S.3d 269, quoting Betz v. Blatt, 160 A.D.3d at 698, 74 N.Y.S.3d 75). “Judiciary Law § 487 focuses on the attorney’s intent to deceive, not the deceit’s success” (Sammy v. Haupel, 170 A.D.3d at 1225, 97 N.Y.S.3d 269 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Betz v. Blatt, 160 A.D.3d at 699, 74 N.Y.S.3d 75). Here, the Supreme Court correctly determined that, even accepting the plaintiffs’ allegations as true and giving the complaint the benefit of every favorable inference (see Arnell Constr. Corp. v. New York City Sch. Constr. Auth., 177 A.D.3d 595, 596, 112 N.Y.S.3d 169), the plaintiffs failed to plead this cause of action with sufficient particularity to withstand a motion to dismiss.

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