Monday, December 31, 2012

Promissory notes and summary judgment in lieu of a complaint.

Practice point: To establish prima facie entitlement to summary judgment in lieu of a complaint, a plaintiff must show that the defendant executed a  promissory note containing an unequivocal and unconditional obligation to repay, and defendant's failure to pay in accordance with the note's terms. Once the plaintiff submits evidence establishing these elements, the burden shifts to the defendant to submit evidence establishing the existence of a triable issue with respect to a bona fide defense.

Student note: .Whether a note precludes a fraud in the inducement defense hinges upon the language used by the parties. The key is whether the obligor's reliance on a proffered misrepresentation is reasonable in light of the language used in the note.

Case: Zyskind v. FaceCake Mktg. Tech., Inc., NY Slip Op 08781 (1st Dept. 2012).


Wednesday’s issue: Preemption.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Liability of joint tortfeasors.

Practice point: CPLR 1601(1) provides that a joint tortfeasor whose culpability is 50% or less is not jointly liable for all of a plaintiff's non-economic loss but is severally liable for its proportionate share.

Student note: Under the statute, the trier of fact must consider the relative culpable conduct of a nonparty in apportioning culpability, unless the plaintiff proves that, with due diligence, he was unable to obtain jurisdiction over the nonparty.

Case: Belmer v. HHM Assoc., Inc., 08779 (1st Dept. 2012).


Monday’s issue: Promissory notes and summary judgment in lieu of a complaint.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Emotional distress damages in a medical malpractice action.

Practice point: The emotional distress damages purportedly suffered by the plaintiff as a result of a blood transfusion, which allegedly became necessary because of the defendants' malpractice, are compensable in this action to recover damages for medical malpractice. All that is needed to recover for emotional injury is breach of defendant’s duty to plaintiff that results directly in emotional harm, and evidence sufficient to guarantee the genuineness of the claim.

Student note: Here, the court held that, inasmuch as the plaintiff has alleged from the outset that receiving a transfusion would violate her religious beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness, the record contained a sufficient guarantee that her claim of having suffered emotional distress as a result of the transfusion is genuine.

Case: DiGeronimo v. Fuchs, NY Slip Op 08685 (2d Dept. 2012).


Tomorrow’s issue: Liability of joint tortfeasors.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hospital's liability for acts of a private attending physician.

Practice point: In general, a hospital cannot be held vicariously liable for the negligence of a private attending physician.

Student note: A hospital cannot be held concurrently liable with such a physician unless its employees commit independent acts of negligence or the attending physician's orders are contraindicated by normal practice.

Case: Corletta v. Fischer, NY Slip Op 08682 (2d Dept.2012).


Tomorrow’s issue: Emotional distress damages in a medical malpractice action.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Court holiday.

The courts are closed to mark Christmas Day.

A safe, happy, and blessed holiday to you all.

Tomorrow's issue: Hospital's liability for acts of a private attending physician.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cross motions for summary judgment.

Practice point: Generally, a cross motion for summary judgment made more than 120 days after the filing of a note of issue may be considered on its merits if another party has made a timely, pending motion on nearly identical grounds.

 Student note: Here, however, the cross motion was not responsive to a timely, pending motion for summary judgment and, therefore, the Supreme Court was without authority to consider it on its merits.

Case: Bicounty Brokerage Corp. v. Burlington Ins. Co., NY Slip Op 08472 (2d Dept. 2012).


Wednesday’s issue: Hospital’s liability for acts of a private attending physician.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Failure to file a note of issue.

Practice point: While the failure to comply with a court order to file a note of issue may provide the basis for dismissal under CPLR 3216, courts may not dismiss an action based on neglect to prosecute unless the statutory preconditions to dismissal are met.

Student note: A 90-day demand to file a note of issue is one of the statutory preconditions, pursuant to CPLR 3216[b][3].

Case: Alii v. Baijnath, NY Slip Op 08469 (2d Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision. 

Monday’s issue: Cross motions for summary judgment.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Workers' Compensation Law.

Practice point: The receipt of workers' compensation benefits is the exclusive remedy that a worker may obtain against an employer for losses suffered as a result of an injury sustained in the course of employment.

Student note: A person may be deemed to have more than one employer for purposes of the Workers' Compensation Law, a general employer and a special employer. Moreover, where facts demonstrate the plaintiff's dual employment status, whether the relationship between two corporate entities is that of joint venturers, parent and subsidiary, corporate affiliates, or general and special employers, immunity will be extended to all the plaintiff's employers.

Case: Alfonso v. Pacific Classon Realty, LLC, NY Slip Op 08468 ((2d Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision. 

Tomorrow’s issue: Failure to file a note of issue.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Vacating a default, and law office failure.

Practice point: In order to vacate the default in answering the complaint, the defendant is required to demonstrate a reasonable excuse for the failure to serve an answer and a potentially meritorious defense, pursuant to CPLR 5015[a].

Student note:  While the Supreme Court has the discretion to accept law office failure as a reasonable excuse, the excuse must be supported by detailed allegations of fact explaining the failure.

Case: HSBC Bank USA v. Wider, NY Slip Op 08285 (2d Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision 

Tomorrow’s issue: Workers’ Compensation Law.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Expert testimony.

Practice point: Expert testimony is unnecessary unless it assists the jury in clarifying an issue which requires professional or technical knowledge possessed by an expert and beyond the comprehension of a typical juror.

Student note: The admissibility and scope of expert testimony is a determination within the discretion of the trial court.

Case: Galasso v. 400 Exec. Blvd., LLC, NY Slip Op 08282 (2d Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision. 

Tomorrow’s issue: Vacating a default, and law office failure.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Motion for judgment as a matter of law.

Practice point: To succeed on a motion for judgment as a matter of law, pursuant to CPLR 4401, a defendant has the burden of showing that there is no rational process by which the jury could find in favor of the plaintiff and against the moving defendant.

Student note: In determining whether the defendant has met this burden, a court must accept the plaintiff's evidence as true and accord the plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable inference which can reasonably be drawn from the evidence presented at trial.

Case: Figueroa v. City of New York, NY Slip Op 08279 (2d Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision. 

Tomorrow’s issue: Expert testimony.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Arbitration clauses.

Practice point: Defendants did not waive the right to arbitrate by merely serving 
an answer and opposing plaintiff's motion.

Student note: The issue of whether an anti-dissolution provision in an LLC's operating agreement violates public policy does not fall into any of the categories of matters that cannot be arbitrated.

Case: SSM Realty Group, LLC v. 20 Sherman Assoc., LLC, NY Slip Op 08408 (1st Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Monday’s issue: Motion for judgment as a matter of law.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pleading fraud with particularity, and punitive damages.

Practice point: While plaintiffs' claim that defendants used the contract as a cover for a fraudulent billing scheme stated a fraud claim separate from the contract claim, plaintiffs failed to specify which invoices are inflated. Therefore, the claim lacked the particularity required by CPLR 3016. However, plaintiffs were given leave to replead this part of their complaint, since the claim is otherwise meritorious on its face.

Student note: Plaintiffs' allegations of a run-of-the-mill commercial dispute, involving only these parties, does not rise to the standard necessary to recover punitive damages.

Case: Lax v. Design Quest N.Y. Ltd., N.Y. Slip Op 08406 (1st Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow’s issue: Arbitration clauses.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Res judicata and collateral estoppel.

Practice point: The claim in the wrongful death action at issue here did not arise from the same or related transactions as the claim in the Surrogate's Court turnover proceeding. Thus, the remaining claim for conscious pain and suffering in the wrongful death action is not barred by the principle of res judicata. 

Student note: Similarly, that remaining claim is not barred by the principle of collateral estoppel because the issues raised in the claim were not addressed, either in theory or in fact, in the Surrogate's Court proceeding.

Case: Lind v. Greenspan, NY Slip Op 08404 (1st Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow’s issue: Pleading fraud with particularity, and punitive damages.

Easements by prescription.

Practice point: An easement by prescription is demonstrated by proof of the adverse, open and notorious, and continuous use of the subject property for the prescriptive period.

Student note: Where the plaintiff demonstrates, by clear and convincing evidence, the open and notorious, continuous, and undisputed use of the subject property, it is presumed that the use was adverse, and the burden shifts to the opponent of the alleged prescriptive easement to show that the use was permissive.

Case: Ducasse v. D’Alonzo, NY Slip Op 08090 (2d Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow’s issue: Res judicata and collateral estoppel.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Stipulations.

Practice point: Oral stipulations entered into in open court by counsel on behalf of their clients are binding, pursuant to CPLR 2104.

Student note: Stipulations of settlement are favored by the courts and not lightly cast aside . A party will be relieved from the consequences of a stipulation made during litigation only where there is cause sufficient to invalidate a contract, such as fraud, collusion, mistake or accident.

Case: Caroli v. Allstate Ins. Co., NY Slip Op 08086 (2d Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow’s issue: Easements by prescription.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Admissibility of third-party business records.

Practice point: The court admitted into evidence certain third-party business records pursuant to the party admission exception to the hearsay rule. The documents were bills of lading generated by defendant's agent, a stevedore, in the course of its duties for defendant, and were therefore receivable against defendant.

Student note: The documents were also admissible as third-party business records. While no representative of the stevedore testified as to the foundation for their introduction into evidence, the bills of lading were created in the agent's performance of its contractual duties and therefore were sufficiently reliable to be admissible without such testimony.

Case: K & K Enters., Inc. v. Stemcor USA Inc., NY Slip Op 07394 (1st Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Monday’s issue: Stipulations.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Motion for leave to renew.

Practice point: Defendants' motion for leave to renew their motion to vacate an order and ensuing judgment entered on default was denied because the self-styled “new facts" submitted on renewal in the form of affidavits of merit could have been submitted on the prior motion to vacate the default judgment, and defendants failed to offer a reasonable justification for the failure to do so, pursuant to CPLR 2221[e][3].

Student note: Defendants’ claim that their former counsel mistakenly made the prior motion pursuant to CPLR 2221, which did not require the submission of an affidavit of merit, was undermined by counsel's identification of the motion as one to vacate a prior order and judgment.

Case: DC Media Capital LLC v. Sivan, NY Slip Op 07391 (1st Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow’s issue: Admissibility of third-party business records.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Liability for a fall down a winding staircase.

Practice point: Plaintiff allegedly was injured in a fall down defendant-premises owner’s winding staircase. Summary judgment was denied because the owner had a duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition, and the configuration of the winding staircase and the partial absence of a handrail at its turn raise triable issues as to whether defendants were on constructive notice of a dangerous condition.

Student note: There was no triable issue as to whether the stairs were in violation of Administrative Code of City of NY § 27-375(e)(4) and (f). The stairs are not "interior stairs" within the meaning of the Administrative Code since they did not serve as a required exit, that is, as a required means of egress from the interior of building to an open exterior space, pursuant to Administrative Code § 27-232.

Case: Katz v. Blank Rome Tenzer Greenblatt, NY Slip Op 07377 (1st Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow’s issue: Motion for leave to renew.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fees for services while waiting for executed letter of intent.

Practice point: Appellate Division found that the motion court confused defendants' counterclaim for legal and consulting fees as consequential damages for plaintiffs' alleged fraud with plaintiffs' claim for similar fees pursuant to the parties' letter of intent, and erred in finding that defendants had not proved damages, inasmuch as they were not obligated to do so in opposition to plaintiffs' showing.

Student note: Appellate Division also found that even if plaintiffs' motion was predicated on defendants' failure to show loss causation, because they had engaged their attorneys and consultants prior to entering into negotiations with plaintiffs, plaintiffs failed to show that defendants did not incur fees for professional services during their negotiations and while waiting for plaintiffs to execute their copy of the letter of intent.

Case: Abyssinian Dev. Corp. v. Bistricer, NY Slip Op 07374 (1st Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow’s issue: Liability for a fall down a winding staircase.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Defective tree wells.

Practice point: In order to hold the City liable for injuries resulting from defects in tree wells in City-owned sidewalks, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the City has received prior written notice of the defect, pursuant to Administrative Code of the City of New York § 7-201[c][2].

Student note: Here, in opposition to the City's showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, plaintiff submitted a Big Apple Map to prove that the City had notice of the allegedly defective condition. However, the map only provided notice that every tree well on the block lacked a fence or barrier, which was not sufficient to bring the particular condition to the City's attention.

Case: O’Donoghue v. City of New York, NY Slip Op 07371 (1st Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow’s issue: Fees for services while waiting for executed letter of intent.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Motions to withdraw as counsel.

Practice point: Where defendant's insurer in a personal injury action issues a contested disclaimer of coverage in the midst of litigation, it is inappropriate to grant a motion to withdraw by the attorney the insurer has provided.

Student note: The decision to grant or deny permission for counsel to withdraw lies within the discretion of the trial court, and the court's decision should not be overturned on appeal absent a showing of an improvident exercise of discretion.

Case: McDonald v. Shore, NY Slip Op 07277 (2d Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Monday’s issue: Defective tree-wells.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Leading questions, and assuming facts not in evidence.

Practice point: The Appellate Division found that plaintiff's counsel's questions were not leading because they did not suggest the answer that counsel wished the expert to give. Instead, they were merely calculated to draw the witness' mind to the subject of inquiry.

Student note: The questions did not assume facts not in evidence because they were based either upon facts testified to by the defendant herself or upon opinions previously expressed by the expert. The jury was entitled to accept or reject both the underlying facts and the underlying opinions upon which an answer to these questions would have been based.

Case: Heines v. Minkowitz, NY Slip Op 07273 (2d Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow’s issue: Motions to withdraw as counsel.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cashiers' checks.

Practice point: A cashier's check is the primary obligation of the issuing bank which, acting as both drawer and drawee, accepts the check upon its issuance.

Student note: Once a bank issues a cashier's check, it cannot thereafter stop payment, even upon a request from its customer, unless there is evidence of fraud, or evidence that the check was lost, stolen, or destroyed.

Case: Golden v. Citibank, N.A., NY Slip Op 07272 (2d Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow’s issue: Leading questions, and assuming facts not in evidence.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fiduciary relationships, and a right to an accounting.

Practice point: A fiduciary relationship arises when one is under a duty to act for or to give advice for the benefit of another upon matters within the scope of the relation. It is grounded in a higher level of trust than normally present in the marketplace between those involved in arm's-length business transactions., and so a conventional business relationship, without more, is insufficient. Rather, a plaintiff must make a showing of special circumstances that could have transformed the parties' business relationship to a fiduciary one, such as control by one party of the other for the good of the other.

Student note: The right to an accounting rests on the existence of a trust or fiduciary relationship regarding the subject matter of the controversy at issue.

Case: DiTolla v. Doral Dental IPA of N.Y., LLC, NY Slip Op 07266 (2d Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow’s issue: Cashier’s checks.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Motions for leave to renew.

Practice point: The motion must be based upon new facts not offered on the original motion that would change the prior determination, pursuant to CPLR 2221[e][2]. The new or additional facts either must have not been known to the party seeking renewal, or may, in the court’s discretion, be based on facts known to the party seeking renewal at the time of the original motion.

Student note: However, in either instance, a reasonable justification for the failure to present such facts on the original motion must be presented, pursuant to CPLR 2221[e][3].

Case: Deutsche Bank Trust Co. v. Ghaness, NY Slip Op 07265 (2d Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow’s issue: Fiduciary relationships, and a right to an accounting.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Medical malpractice, and experts' opinions.


Practice point: When a physician opines outside his or her area of specialization, a foundation must be laid tending to support the reliability of the opinion rendered.

Student note: Even if the defendant-physician did depart from accepted practice, plaintiff cannot defeat summary judgment if the expert’s assertion that this departure proximately caused the plaintiff's injuries is purely speculative.

Case: Bey v. Neuman, NY Slip Op 07262 (2d Dept. 2012).

 Here is the decision.

Monday’s issue: Motions for leave to renew.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Court holiday.

The courts are closed to mark Thanksgiving Day.

Tomorrow's issue: Medical malpractice, and experts' opinions.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

More than one proximate cause, and comparative fault.


Practice point: There can be more than one proximate cause of an accident.

Student note: Therefore, the proponent of a summary judgment motion has the burden of establishing freedom from comparative fault as a matter of law.

Case: Antaki v. Mateo, NY Slip Op 07261 (2d Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Friday’s issue: Medical malpractice, and experts’ opinions.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Liability when a non-owner is driving.



Practice point: Proof of ownership of a motor vehicle creates a rebuttable presumption that the driver was using the vehicle with the owner's permission, express or implied.

Student note: A finding of constructive consent requires a consensual link between the negligent operator and one whose possession of the car was authorized.

Case: Fiduciary Ins. Co. of Am. v. Jackson, NY Slip Op 07200 (1st Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow’s issue: More than one proximate cause, and comparative fault.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Collapsed ceiling, and late discovery demands.



Practice point: Plaintiff's complaints of the collapse of her bathroom ceiling and portions of her living room ceiling 15 months before the collapse of the living room ceiling raise an issue of fact whether defendants were on constructive notice of a defect. To the extent the record is ambiguous as to the cause of the ceiling collapse, there are issues of fact as to defendants' duty to inspect the ceilings and the applicability of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.

Student note: Since defendants did not disclose the existence of documents previously ordered produced, or the identity of a witness with knowledge until their deposition just before the note of issue was filed, plaintiff's last-minute renewed demand for this discovery was justified.

Case: Lisbey v. Pel Park Realty, NY Slip Op 07212 (1st Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow’s issue: Liability when a non-owner is driving.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Liability for injuries to a special employee.


Practice point: Plaintiff was employed as a contract travel nurse at the defendant-hospital, and, at the cafeteria during her assigned lunch-time, she slipped and fell while waiting in line to pay one of the cashiers.
A special employee is one who is transferred, for a limited time of whatever duration, to the service of another. When an employee is eligible to receive Workers' Compensation benefits from his general employer, a special employer is shielded from any action at law commenced by the employee, pursuant to Workers' Compensation Law § 29[6].

Student note: The key to the determination is a fact-intensive inquiry into who controls and directs the manner, details, and ultimate result of the employee's work.

Case: Warner v. Continuum Health Care Partners, Inc., NY Slip 07211 (1st Dept. 2012).

Monday’s issue: Collapsed ceiling, and late discovery demands.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Suing the Transit Authority.



Practice point:Timely service of a notice of claim is a condition precedent to the commencement of an action sounding in tort against the Transit Authority, pursuant to General Municipal Law § 50-e[1][a]; § 50-i[1][a], and Public Authorities Law § 1212[2]. In determining whether to extend the time to serve, the court will consider whether the public corporation received actual notice of the essential facts constituting the claim within 90 days after the claim arose or a reasonable time thereafter; whether the claimant has a reasonable excuse for the failure to serve a timely notice; and whether the delay would substantially prejudice the public corporation in its defense on the merits.

Student note: Here, petitioner failed to demonstrate that the Transit Authority acquired actual knowledge of the essential facts constituting the claim within 90 days after the accident or within a reasonable time thereafter. Even though the petitioner consulted with an attorney and served a notice upon the City of New York approximately one week after the accident, he did not serve a notice upon the Transit Authority or commence this proceeding until more than four months after the consultation. The Transit Authority did not have any knowledge of the petitioner's accident and injury, or the legal theory on which liability was predicated against it prior to being served with papers in the instant proceeding. Furthermore, the petitioner failed to demonstrate a reasonable excuse for his delay. The petitioner's excuse that he only recently came to realize that he may have a claim against the Transit Authority was unacceptable. Finally, the petitioner failed to show that the delay had not deprived the Transit Authority of the opportunity to find witnesses promptly or otherwise conduct a timely and meaningful investigation in this matter.

Case: Abromovitz v. City of New York, NY Slip Op 07108 (2d Dept. 2012).


Tomorrow’s issue: Liability for injuries to a special employee.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Leave to amend to increase the ad damnum clause.


Practice point: In applying for to leave to amend the complaint to increase the ad damnum clause, pursuant to CPLR 3025[b], a petitioner is required to submit a physician's affirmation (1) showing a causal connection between her condition and the accident, and (2) specifying the claimed change in her condition, including any injuries that had not been previously considered, or the extent to which the condition had worsened.

Student note: Here, the application was denied because petitioner submitted a physician's affirmation which failed to establish that the increased injuries to her lower back which required surgery were causally related to the subject motor vehicle accident, as it failed to account for the fact that the petitioner had claimed to have injured her lower back in accidents that had occurred both prior and subsequent to the subject motor vehicle accident.

Case: Matter of Sealy v. Morris, NY Slip Op 07116 (2d Dept. 2012).


Tomorrow's issue: Suing the Transit Authority.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Liquidated damages provisions.


Practice point: A contract clause is one for liquidated damages if the amount of actual loss is incapable or difficult of precise estimation, and the stipulated amount of damages bears a reasonable proportion to the probable loss. Whether a contractual provision represents a liquidated damages provision is a question of law.

Student  note: Liquidated damages provisions will be upheld only if the amount fixed is a reasonable measure of the probable actual loss in the event of a breach. If the amount fixed is grossly disproportionate to the amount of actual damages, then the liquidated damages provision amounts to a penalty and will not be enforced.

Case: G3-Purves St., LLC v. Thomson Purves, LLC, NY Slip Op 06919 (2d Dept. 2012).


Tomorrow’s issue:   Leave to amend to increase the ad damnum clause.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Court holiday.

The courts are closed to mark Veterans Day.

To all Veterans, thank you for your service, no matter where or when.

Tomorrow's issue is liquidated damages provisions.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Defense based on documentary evidence.



Practice point: A defendant may move for judgment dismissing a cause of action on the ground that a defense is founded upon documentary evidence, pursuant to CPLR 3211[a][1]. The motion may be granted only where the documentary evidence utterly refutes plaintiff's factual allegations, conclusively establishing a defense as a matter of law.

Student note:  Materials that clearly qualify as documentary evidence include documents reflecting out-of-court transactions such as mortgages, deeds, contracts, and any other papers, the contents of which are essentially undeniable.

Case: Sands Point Partners Private Client Group v. Fidelity Natl. Tit. Ins. Co., NY Slip Op 07097 (2d Dept. 2012).


Tuesday's issue: Liquidated damages provisions.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Collecting attorneys' fees.



Practice point: New York follows the so-called American Rule, which is that an attorney's fee is merely an incident of litigation and is not recoverable absent a specific contractual provision or statutory authority.

Student note: Accordingly, a contractual provision permitting the prevailing party to recover fees that are incidents of litigation will be construed strictly. A promise assuming the obligation to pay fees will not be given effect unless it can be clearly implied from the language and purpose of the entire agreement and the surrounding facts and circumstances.

Case: 214 Wall St. Assoc., LLC v. Medical Arts-Huntington Realty, NY Slip Op 07103 (2d Dept. 2012).


Tomorrow’s issue: Defense based on documentary evidence.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Vacating a default, and law office failure.



Practice point: To vacate his default in opposing the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on the complaint, a defendant is required to demonstrate a reasonable excuse for the default and a potentially meritorious opposition to the motion, pursuant to CPLR 5015[a][1].

Student note: While law office failure can be accepted as a reasonable excuse in the exercise of a court's sound discretion, the movant must submit supporting facts to explain and justify the default, and mere neglect is not accepted as a reasonable excuse.

Case:  Taylor Appraisals v. Prokop, NY Slip Op. 07099 (2d Dept 2012).


Tomorrow’s issue: Collecting attorneys’ fees.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Court holiday.

The courts are closed today because of the elections.

Wednesday's issue: Vacating a default, and law office failure.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Malpractice as opposed to negligence.



Practice point: The distinction between malpractice and ordinary negligence turns on whether the acts or omissions complained of involve a matter of medical science or art requiring special skills not ordinarily possessed by lay persons, or whether the conduct complained of can instead be assessed on the basis of the common everyday experience of the trier of the facts.

Student note: When the incompetence alleged is of a specialized medical nature, deriving from the physician-patient relationship, and substantially related to medical diagnosis and treatment, the action it gives rise to is by definition one for medical malpractice rather than for simple negligence.

Case: Giordano v. Scherz, NY Slip Op 07087 (2d Dept. 2012).


Wednesday’s issue: Vacating a default and law office failure.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action.



Practice point: On the motion, pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7), the court must construe the pleading liberally, accept all facts as alleged in the pleading to be true, accord the plaintiff the benefit of every possible inference, and determine only whether the facts as alleged fit within any cognizable legal theory.

Student note: The motion should be granted only when (1) it has been shown that a material fact alleged in the complaint is not a fact at all, and (2) there is no significant dispute regarding it.

Case: Cusso v. Chabau Café Corp., NY Slip Op 07084 (2d Dept. 2012).


Monday’s issue: Malpractice as opposed to negligence.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Improper service of an order to show cause.



Practice point: The absence of proper service of an order to show cause is a sufficient and complete excuse for a default on the motion, and deprives the court of jurisdiction to entertain the motion.

Student note: Since the court was deprived of jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiff's motion, the order granting the motion, and the judgment entered upon that order, were nullities and must be vacated.

Case: Crown Waterproofing, Inc. v. Tadco Constr. Corp., NY Slip Op 07083 (2d Dept. 2012).


Tomorrow’s issue: Motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A fall from a ladder at the worksite.



Practice point: Labor Law § 240(1) imposes a nondelegable duty and absolute liability for workers' injuries proximately caused  by an owner's failure to provide safety devices necessary to protect workers subject to the risks inherent in elevated work sites.

Student note: Although a fall from a ladder, by itself, is not sufficient to impose § 240(1) liability, liability will be imposed when the evidence shows that the  ladder was inadequately secured and that the failure to secure the ladder was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's injuries.

Case: Canas v. Harbour at Blue Point Home Owners Assn., Inc., NY Slip Op 07082 (2d Dept. 2012).


Tomorrow’s issue: Improper service of an order to show cause.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Motion to change venue denied.



Practice point: The moving defendant failed to substantiate its claim that, upon the discontinuance of this action against the other defendant, none of the parties was a resident of Queens County, since it failed to submit any proof as to its own residence, pursuant to CPLR 503[a], [c].

Student note: Additionally, the moving defendant failed to demonstrate that venue should be transferred based on the convenience of witnesses, pursuant to CPLR 510[3].

Case: Amoroso v. Stop & Shop, NY Slip Op 07081 (2d Dept. 2012).


Tomorrow’s issue: A fall from a ladder at the worksite.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dismissing a complaint.



Practice point: The complaint was dismissed after plaintiff failed to comply with two court orders despite the fact that the second order clearly warned plaintiff that its action would be dismissed unless it complied. Plaintiff's supplemental discovery response was late and incomplete, its excuse for failing to respond in a timely manner lacked merit, and it did not offer any excuse for those documents that it has still not exchanged.

Student note: The court found that it could be reasonably inferred that plaintiff's conduct had met the dismissal standard of willful and contumacious.

Case: LaSalle Talman Bank, F.S.B. v. Weisblum & Felice, NY Slip Op 06864 (1st Dept. 2012).


Tomorrow’s issue: Motion to change venue denied.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Default judgments.


Practice point: On a motion for leave to enter a default judgment pursuant to CPLR 3215, the movant is required to submit proof of service of the summons and complaint, proof of the facts constituting the claim, and proof of the defaulting party's default in answering or appearing.

Student note: Improper service of the summons and complaint is a defense that may be waived, pursuant to CPLR 3211[e].

Case: Dupps v. Betancourt, NY Slip Op 06915 (2d Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Monday’s issue: Dismissing a complaint.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Legal malpractice.


Practice point: The standard to which the defendant's conduct is to be compared is not that of the most highly skilled attorney, nor is it that of the average member of the legal profession, but that of an attorney who is competent and qualified. The conduct of legal matters routinely involve questions of judgment and discretion as to which even the most distinguished members of the profession may differ. Absent an express agreement, an attorney is not a guarantor of a particular result, and may not be held liable in negligence for the exercise of appropriate judgment that leads to an unsuccessful result.

Student note:  It follows that the selection of one among several reasonable courses of action does not constitute malpractice. Attorneys are free to act in a manner that is reasonable and consistent with the law as it existed at the time of representation, without exposing themselves to liability for malpractice.

Case: Bua v.Purcell & Ingrao, P.C., NY Slip Op 06908 (2d Dept. 2012).


Tomorrow’s issue:  Default judgments.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Strict products liability.


Practice point: The defendants established prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by demonstrating that the solvent-based sealer, as designed, was reasonably safe for its intended use; that is, the utility of the product outweighed its inherent danger. Specifically, the defendants' expert affidavits established that the volatile solvent contained in the defendants' sealer was critical to the sealer's ability to dry quickly and results in a quality finish to the wood upon which it is applied, that the sealer is cost effective for users, and that the sealer may be safely used when the warnings and instructions provided on the sealer's label are followed.

In opposition, however, the plaintiff raised a triable issue of fact as to whether the utility of the solvent-based sealer did not outweigh its inherent danger because particular water-based sealers, which were safer than the solvent-based sealer, were equally useful.

Student note: A summary judgment motion will be defeated if plaintiff submits evidence sufficient to raise a triable issue as to whether a product’s utility outweighs its inherent danger.

Case: Andrade v. T.C. Dunham Paint Co., Inc., NY Slip Op 06905 (2d Dept. 2012).


Tomorrow’s issue: Legal malpractice.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Adverse possession.


Practice point: Where there has been an actual continued occupation of premises under a claim of title, exclusive of any other right, but not founded upon a written instrument or a judgment or decree, the premises so actually occupied, and no others, are deemed to have been held adversely. To establish a claim, the occupation of the property must be (1) hostile and under a claim of right (i.e., a reasonable basis for the belief that the subject property belongs to a particular party), (2) actual, (3) open and notorious, (4) exclusive, and (5) continuous for the statutory period of at least 10 years. Because the acquisition of title by adverse possession is not favored under the law, the elements must be proven by clear and convincing evidence.

Student note: The character of the possession must be such that it would give the owner a cause of action in ejectment against the occupier. In addition, where the claim of right is not founded upon a written instrument, the party asserting title by adverse possession must establish that the land was usually cultivated or improved or protected by a substantial inclosure.

Case: Air Stream Corp. v. 3300 Lawson Corp., NY Slip Op 06903 (2d Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow’s issue: Strict products liability.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Accountant malpractice claims.


Practice point: The cause of action accrues upon the client's receipt of the accountant's work product.

Student note: A cause of action to recover damages for nonmedical professional malpractice must be commenced within three years after the cause of action accrues.

Case: Rodeo Family Enters., LLC v. Matte, NY Slip Op 06793 (2d Dept. 2012).


Tomorrow’s issue: Adverse possession.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Judicial review of a university's discipline of a professor.


Practice point: Judicial review of an academic institution's disciplinary determinations is limited to whether it substantially adhered to its own published rules and guidelines, and whether the determinations are based on a rational interpretation of the relevant evidence.

Student note: When a university has not substantially complied with its own guidelines or its determination is not rationally based upon the evidence, the determination will be annulled as arbitrary and capricious.

Case: Matter of Kickertz v. NYU, NY Slip Op 06834 (1st Dept. 2012).


Monday’s issue:  Accountant malpractice claims.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A civilian's liability for providing information to law enforcement.



Practice point: A civilian will not be held liable for false arrest or false imprisonment.for furnishing information to law enforcement authorities who are then free to exercise their own independent judgment as to whether an arrest will be made and criminal charges filed.

Student note: To be liable for false arrest or false imprisonment, the civilian must have affirmatively induced the officer to act, such as taking an active part in the arrest and procuring it to be made or showing active, officious and undue zeal, to the point where the officer is not acting of his own volition.

Case: Petrychenko v. Solovey, NY Slip Op 06792 (2d Dept. 2012).


Tomorrow’s issue: Judicial review of a university’s discipline of a professor.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Contractor liability.



Practice point: A contractor that performs its work in accordance with contract plans is not lliable unless those plans are so patently defective as to place a contractor of ordinary prudence on notice that the project, if completed according to the plans, is potentially dangerous.

Student note: As a general rule, a builder or contractor is justified in relying upon the plans and specifications which he has contracted to follow.

Case: Nichols-Sisson v. Windstar Airport Serv., Inc., NY Slip Op 06788 (2d Dept. 2012).


Tomorrow’s issue: A civilian’s liability for providing information to law enforcement.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Assault, and whether words alone rise to the level.



Practice point: To plead a cause of action to recover damages for assault, a plaintiff must allege intentional physical conduct placing the plaintiff in imminent apprehension of harmful contact.

Student note: While an action for an assault need not involve physical injury, but only a grievous affront or threat to the person of the plaintiff, words, without some menacing gesture or act accompanying them, ordinarily will not be sufficient to state a cause of action.

Case: Gould v. Rempel, NY Slip Op 06779 (2d Dept. 2012).


Tomorrow’s issue: Contractor liability.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Defamation.


Practice point: The cause of action sounding in defamation was dismissed, pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(1), because defendant’s documentary evidence established conclusively that the plaintiff, in a matrimonial action, consented to the admission of the court-ordered report.

Student note: An essential element of a defamation claim is that the alleged defamatory statement was published without privilege or authorization.

Case: Baker v. Inamdar, NY Slip Op 06770 (2d Dept. 2012).


Tomorrow’s issue: Assault, and whether words alone rise to the level.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Vacating a dismissal order.



Practice point: To vacate the dismissal order and restore the action to the trial calendar, a plaintiff is required to demonstrate both a reasonable excuse for the default in proceeding with trial and a potentially meritorious cause of action, pursuant to CPLR 5015[a][1].

Student note: Here, where the plaintiffs' trial attorney was actually engaged in another matter on the scheduled trial date, and this was his first request for an adjournment, the plaintiffs demonstrated a reasonable excuse for the default, notwithstanding the technical defect in counsel's affirmation of engagement. In addition, the affidavit of merit provided by the plaintiffs' medical expert was sufficient to establish the existence of a potentially meritorious cause of action.

Case: Piper-Rader v. Muslim, NY Slip Op 06592 (2d Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Monday’s issue: Defamation.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Motion to dismiss for failure to serve and file a note of issue, and preclusion from testifying at trial.



Practice point: The complaint was not dismissed on the grounds that plaintiff defied the court's order to serve and file a note of issue because, although court orders may constitute a written demand to serve and file a note of issue under CPLR 3216(b)(3), the order here did not give plaintiff the required 90 days to serve and file a note of issue, or contain a statement that failure to timely do so would serve as a basis for a motion to dismiss.

Student note: Plaintiff was precluded from testifying at trial because of an irresponsible approach to discovery. Plaintiff failed to appear on the court-ordered date for deposition, despite defendants' attempts to confirm her availability before the deposition date; never apprised the court of her inability to be deposed that day, despite clear directives to do so in the preliminary conference order; never explained her failure to do any of the foregoing; and failed to timely respond to interrogatories by the discovery deadline, despite multiple requests to do so.

Case: Mehta v. Chugh, NY Slip Op 06645 (1st Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow’s issue: Vacating a dismissal order.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Motion for leave to amend a pleading and motion to dismiss.



Practice point: A motion for leave to amend a pleading should be freely granted in the absence of prejudice or surprise resulting directly from the delay, unless the amendment would be palpably insufficient or patently devoid of merit, pursuant to CPLR 3025[b]. Here, the defendant had not moved before serving his answer to dismiss the complaint on the ground of lack of standing, and he did not raise the defense of lack of standing in his answer. By not raising the defense at that time, he failed to put the plaintiff on notice of the defense at a time the plaintiff could have cured any defect by promptly recommencing the action. The defendant failed to oppose the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on the complaint, and he waited more than seven additional months after the motion for summary judgment had been granted before moving for leave to amend his answer to assert the defense of lack of standing. Under these circumstances, the branch of the motion for leave to amend the answer was denied.

Student note: For the same reasons, the branch of the motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of standing was denied.

Case: HSBC Bank USA v. Philistine, NY Slip Op 06580 (2d Dept. 2012).

Here is the decision.

Tomorrow’s issue: Motion to dismiss for failure to serve and file a note of issue, and preclusion from testifying at trial.