Commercial Division Blog

Posted: May 20, 2020 / Categories Commercial, Professional Malpractice

Questions of Fact Regarding Defendant's Negligence Precluded Summary Judgment on Legal Malpractice Claim

On April 29, 2020, the Second Department issued a decision in Blumencranz v. Botter, 2020 NY Slip Op. 02452, holding that questions of fact regarding the defendant's negligence precluded summary judgment on a legal malpractice claim, explaining:

The plaintiff commenced this action alleging, inter alia, that the defendant committed legal malpractice in the prosecution of an underlying matrimonial action. The plaintiff alleged, among other things, that the defendant's negligent legal advice resulted in an unfavorable, binding stipulation of settlement in the underlying action. In moving for summary judgment dismissing the amended complaint, the defendant argued, inter alia, that the plaintiff voluntarily entered into the stipulation of settlement, and that his actions did not proximately cause the plaintiff to sustain damages. The Supreme Court denied the defendant's motion, and the defendant appeals.

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. In order to be entitled to summary judgment, the movant must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to eliminate any material issues of fact from the case.

Here, the defendant failed to demonstrate the absence of triable issues of fact as to whether his actions in advising the plaintiff with regard to the stipulation of settlement evidenced a failure on his part to exercise the requisite level of skill and knowledge, and whether those actions were a proximate cause of any damages incurred by the plaintiff. Since the defendant failed to meet his prima facie burden, we agree with the Supreme Court's determination denying his motion for summary judgment dismissing the amended complaint, regardless of the sufficiency of the plaintiff's opposition papers.

(Internal quotations and citations omitted).

We both bring and defend professional malpractice claims and other claims relating to the duties of professionals such as lawyers, accountants and architects to their clients. Contact us if you have questions regarding such claims or appeals of such claims.