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Kutner v. Catter

Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Second Department
Nov 5, 2008
867 N.Y.S.2d 156 (N.Y. App. Div. 2008)

Opinion

No. 2007-09456.

November 5, 2008.

In an action to recover unpaid legal fees, the defendant counterclaim plaintiff appeals from an order of the Supreme Court, Nassau County (McCarty, J.), entered September 27, 2007, which denied her motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint and on her counter-claim.

Kutner Gurlides, Mineola, N.Y. (Stephen D. Kutner, pro se, of counsel), plainitff-respondent pro se and for plaintiff-respondent Stephen D. Kutner.

Chesney Murphy, LLP, Baldwin, N.Y. (Tara A. LaBella of counsel), for counterclaim defendants-respondents.

Fisher, J.P., Balkin, McCarthy and Chambers, JJ.


Ordered that the order is affirmed, with costs.

This action to recover unpaid legal fees arises from the representation by the plaintiffs counterclaim defendants (hereinafter the plaintiffs) of the defendant counterclaim plaintiff (hereinafter the defendant) in a matrimonial action. The Supreme Court denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint and on her counterclaim alleging legal malpractice, finding that triable issues of fact existed. We affirm.

To sustain a cause of action alleging legal malpractice, a plaintiff must establish 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 the plaintiff actual and ascertainable damages ( Rudolf v Shayne, Dachs, Stanisci, Corker Sauer, 8 NY3d 438, 442 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Hearst v Hearst, 50 AD3d 959, 963; Bauza v Livington, 40 AD3d 791, 792-793; Magnacoustics, Inc. v Ostrolenk, Faber, Gerb Soffen, 303 AD2d 561, 562). "To establish causation, a plaintiff must show that he or she would have prevailed in the underlying action or would not have incurred any damages, but for the lawyer's negligence" ( Rudolf v Shayne, Dachs, Stanisci, Corker Sauer, 8 NY3d at 442; see Davis v Klein, 88 NY2d 1008, 1009-1010; Barnett v Schwartz, 47 AD3d 197, 203-204). A settlement of an underlying claim does not preclude a subsequent action for legal malpractice where the settlement was effectively compelled by the mistakes of counsel ( see N.A. Kerson Co. v Shayne, Dachs, Weiss, Kolbrenner, Levy Levine, 45 NY2d 730, 732, affg on Suozzi, J., concurring op, 59 AD2d 551, 552; Tortura v Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Gannavo, P.C., 21 AD3d 1082, 1083; Rau v Borenkoff, 262 AD2d 388, 389; U.S. Ice Cream Corp. v Bizar, 240 AD2d 654, 655; Lattimore v Bergman, 224 AD2d 497).

Here, the Supreme Court properly determined that triable issues of fact exist precluding summary disposition in favor of the defendant. Although the defendant's allegations may be legally sufficient to support her counterclaim alleging legal malpractice ( see Gaslow v Phillips Nizer Benjamin Krim Ballon, 286 AD2d 703, 705; Rapp v Lauer, 200 AD2d 726; cf. Ippolito v McCormack, Damiani, Lowe Mellon, 265 AD2d 303; Ostriker v Taylor, Atkins Ostrow, 258 AD2d 572), the plaintiffs raised a triable issue of fact as to the appropriateness of their actions as measured against the "ordinary reasonable skill and knowledge commonly possessed by a member of the legal profession" ( Rudolf v Shayne, Dachs, Stanisci, Corker Sauer, 8 NY3d at 442 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Hearst v Hearst, 50 AD3d at 963).

We decline the plaintiffs' request to impose a sanction upon the defendant for pursuing an allegedly frivolous appeal ( see 22 NYCRR 130-1.1).


Summaries of

Kutner v. Catter

Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Second Department
Nov 5, 2008
867 N.Y.S.2d 156 (N.Y. App. Div. 2008)
Case details for

Kutner v. Catter

Case Details

Full title:STEPHEN D. KUTNER et al., Respondents, v. JEAN CATTERSON, Appellant

Court:Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Second Department

Date published: Nov 5, 2008

Citations

867 N.Y.S.2d 156 (N.Y. App. Div. 2008)
867 N.Y.S.2d 156
2008 N.Y. Slip Op. 8461

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