Commercial Division Blog

Posted: April 5, 2024 / Written by: Jeffrey M. Eilender, Thomas A. Kissane, Samuel L. Butt, Joshua Wurtzel, Channing J. Turner / Categories Declaratory Judgment, Equitable Remedies and Defenses

Declaratory Judgment Unavailable When Plaintiff May Obtain Adequate Relief Through Other Causes of Action In Suit

On March 6, 2024, Justice Joel M. Cohen of the New York County Commercial Division issued a decision in Barons Media, LLC v. Shapiro Legal Group, PLLC, Index No. 652481/2023, dismissing a claim for a declaratory judgment that was duplicative of a separate tort claim for money damages, explaining:

Barons' declaratory judgment claim is dismissed because Barons has not identified a "justiciable controversy" as required by CPLR 3001. Instead, the declarations sought are duplicative of the aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty claim in this action and the discovery issues in the Special Proceeding (Nationstar Mtge., LLC v Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, 194 AD3d 490,493 [1st Dept 2021]). Whether Shapiro earned fees, made, or withheld payments, misused Barons' confidential information, or mischaracterized revenues are facts that will be decided in connection with the aiding and abetting claim (Upfront Megatainment, Inc. v Thiam , 215 AD3d 576, 578 [1st Dept 2023]).

As Barons may obtain "full and adequate relief" in connection with its other claims, declaratory relief is not appropriate and the claim is dismissed without any need to declare the rights of either party (245 E. 19 Realty LLC v 245 E. 19th St. Parking LLC, 223 AD3d 604, 607 [1st Dept 2024]). Barons may also conduct discovery in this action to establish its claims, further demonstrating why a declaration that Shapiro did not provide or misrepresented what documents exist is unwarranted. Barons' request, in the alternative, for leave to replead is denied for failure to provide a "proposed amended or supplemental pleading" as required by CPLR 3025(b) or "any specific information about the nature of the proposed claims" (Triumph Enterprises Corp. v Webster Auto Repair & Serv. Ctr. Inc., 216 AD3d 444, 445 [1st Dept 2023] [citation omitted]).

A declaratory judgment claim can be a useful way to establish two or more parties' relative rights. But a declaratory judgment is an equitable remedy, and is thus unavailable if the plaintiff otherwise has an adequate remedy at law. Contact the Commercial Division Blog Committee at if you or a client have questions concerning a declaratory judgment.