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Posted: August 22, 2017

Professional Malpractice Claim Dismissed for Failure to Present Adequate Expert Testimony

On August 16, 2017, the Second Department issued a decision in Michael v. He Gin Lee Architect Planner, PLLC, 2017 NY Slip Op. 06177, setting aside a jury verdict of professional malpractice against an architect because of the plaintiff’s failure to present adequate expert testimony on accepted architectural standards of practice, explaining:

Where, as here, the causes of action submitted to the jury hinge on allegations of professional malpractice against an architect, it is incumbent upon the plaintiff to present expert testimony to support them. Specifically, the plaintiff in this case alleged that the defendants committed professional malpractice by submitting defective plans to the New York City Department of Buildings (hereinafter the DOB), and by failing to diligently pursue the approval process and timely deal with objections raised by the DOB. Such questions are not within the competence of untutored laypersons to evaluate, as common experience and observation offer little guidance.

The only expert proffered by the plaintiff conceded that he “didn’t see” the defendants’ plans, and when asked, for instance, to opine on whether the defendants’ plans “would have caused a problem” regarding the roof’s ability to bear the weight of certain HVAC equipment, he demurred, answering, “No, I only work for myself.” Moreover, the expert offered no opinion regarding the defendants’ alleged delay in getting their plans approved by the DOB. Given the absence of any expert testimony that the defendants departed from accepted architectural standards of practice, the jury lacked any rational basis for its finding that the defendants committed professional malpractice. Accordingly, that branch of the defendants’ motion pursuant to CPLR 4404(a) which was to set aside the verdict and for judgment as a matter of law should have been granted, and the complaint dismissed.

(Internal quotations and citations omitted).

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