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Current Developments in the Commercial Divisions of the
New York State Courts by Schlam Stone & Dolan LLP
Posted: July 12, 2020

Statements Made Counsel in an Internal Investigation Upon Which a Party Later Relied Are Party Admissions

On July 9, 2020, the First Department issued a decision in Angiolillo v. Christie’s, Inc., 2020 NY Slip Op. 03848, holding that statements made by a defendant’s counsel in an internal investigation upon which the defendant later relied were party admissions, explaining:

The unequivocal statements by Christie’s outside counsel, set forth in the investigation documents, that the Senator had purchased the diamond, were admissible admissions on Christie’s part.

In arguing the statements are, instead, inadmissible hearsay, Christie’s suggests its outside counsel lacked the requisite authority to speak on its behalf, yet Christie’s touted the authoritative nature of outside counsel’s investigation in opposing plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion and advocating dismissal of the complaint. For Christie’s to now aver it did not adopt counsel’s statements in the investigation documents accordingly rings hollow.

Christie’s also argues that, to constitute a party admission, a party’s agent’s statements must be made to third parties, and not to the principal itself. Here, however, Christie’s itself made its agents’ statements to third parties, namely, to plaintiffs, and to the court, to which it argued that its counsel’s investigation disproved plaintiffs’ position, and buttressed its own.

(Internal quotations and citations omitted).

The results in a complex commercial litigation often turn on the facts more than the law (which is why it is complex). This decision relates to the rule that a statement made by a party can be admitted into evidence against it. If you or a client have questions regarding New York’s rules of evidence, contact Schlam Stone & Dolan partner John Lundin at jlundin@schlamstone.com.

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Posted in Commercial, Evidence
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