Requirement of Stating License Information in a Complaint Against a Consumer.

Dunkin’ Donuts may want us to believe that “America runs on Dunkin,” but the truth is, America runs on its service industry. In our everyday lives there are people who provide a service to us; whether it is waiting on us in a restaurant, a physician or health care worker taking care of us, or a contractor working on our homes. America’s service industry is a vital part of our economy and everyday lives.

But what happens when the service provider is not paid for his services? How can that person collect money that is due them? Someone who has not been paid for services rendered can file a lawsuit seeking to collect unpaid monies from a consumer/client.

New York’s Civil Practice Law & Rules (the CPLR) Section 3015 provides some guidance when a service provider decides to file a lawsuit against a consumer/client to pay sums due and owing. Depending on the location or venue of the lawsuit and the type of industry that provided the service, a plaintiff may be required to include in his complaint his license number.

CPLR 3015(e) was recently amended to state that when a plaintiff starts a lawsuit against a consumer, the plaintiff must include in the complaint the name on the license, the license number and the government agency which issued the license if the plaintiff is required to be licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs of the City of New York, Counties of Nassau, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester. CPLR 3015(e) provides:

(e) License to do business. Where the plaintiff’s cause of action against a consumer arises from the plaintiff’s conduct of a business which is required by state or local law to be licensed by the department of consumer affairs of the city of New York, the Suffolk county department of consumer affairs, the Westchester county department of consumer affairs/weight-measures, the county of Rockland, the county of Putnam or the Nassau county department of consumer affairs, the complaint shall allege, as part of the cause of action, that plaintiff is duly licensed and shall contain the name and number, if any, of such license and the governmental agency which issued such license; provided, however, that where the plaintiff does not have a license at the commencement of the action the plaintiff may, subject to the provisions of rule thirty hundred twenty-five of this article, amend the complaint with the name and number of an after-acquired license and the name of the governmental agency which issued such license or move for leave to amend the complaint in accordance with such provisions. The failure of the plaintiff to comply with this subdivision will permit the defendant to move for dismissal pursuant to paragraph seven of subdivision (a) of rule thirty-two hundred eleven of this chapter.

The initial purpose of this legislation was to place the burden on a “home improvement contractor” to establish it was licensed to perform the work at the time the work was performed. Courts have consistently held that a failure to have a license at the time the work was performed will preclude the contractor from commencing an action. Working without a license or obtaining a license after the work was performed is too late, and will result in the lawsuit getting dismissed. (This pleading requirement, which initially began to address issues concerning home improvement contractors, was expanded to include all of the different types of licenses issued by the government agency).

The requirement of the plaintiff to include its license information in the complaint does not mean anyone who needs a government license to perform their work must include their license number. The Court in NCSPlus v. WBR Management, 37 Misc.3d 227, 949 NYS2d 317 [Sup.Ct., Nassau Co. 2012], determined that the plaintiff, who was a debt collection agency, was not required to include its license information in the complaint because the dispute did not involve a “consumer credit transaction” against a consumer but rather between a debt collection agency and a merchant. (The term “consumer credit transaction” means a transaction where credit is extended to an individual and the money which was the subject of the transaction was primarily for personal, family or household purposes).

Therefore, it is important to remember that if you are a licensed service provider who decides to sue a customer or client, you may need to include your license information in your summons and complaint or you risk having your case thrown out.

— by Elisa S. Rosenthal, Esq.
Law Office of Richard A. Klass

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