Bruno and Isaacson Obtain Dismissal of Legal Malpractice Action from Appellate Division

January 4, 2019 | Jonathan B. Bruno | Deborah M. Isaacson | Professional Liability

Jonathan Bruno and Deborah Isaacson secured dismissal from the Appellate Division, First Department of a complaint asserting legal malpractice, fraud and Judiciary Law 487 claims against their attorney clients, with the Appellate Division reversing the trial court’s partial denial of their motion to dismiss.

Our clients represented the plaintiff in her divorce proceeding for nine months before seeking to be relieved as counsel.  During the course of their brief representation, the plaintiff moved out of state, against our clients’ advice. The plaintiff settled her divorce action while represented by new counsel and agreed to return to Manhattan by a date certain.  When she failed to do so, she ultimately lost custody of her daughter and was ordered to pay her ex-husband’s attorney’s fees.

The plaintiff sought to blame our clients for her loss of custody, maintaining that our clients were negligent in allegedly advising her that she should move out of state and had failed to move for attorneys’ fees, preventing her from timely returning to Manhattan. The Appellate Division concluded that the plaintiff’s legal malpractice claim related to attorneys’ fees failed because her various successor counsel had ample time and opportunity to make such a motion.  The court also noted that since plaintiff agreed to forego an award of attorneys’ fees in the settlement agreement, she could not prove the causation element of her claim.

As to the remainder of her legal malpractice claim, the court held that the plaintiff’s alleged damages were caused by her failure to comply with the terms of the settlement of her divorce, not due to our clients’ alleged negligence.  Further, the Appellate Division held that the fraud and Judiciary Law 487 claims were duplicative of the legal malpractice claim.

The Appellate Division also affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s breach of fiduciary duty claim, which was appealed by the plaintiff.  The Appellate Division’s decision was featured in an article on the front page of the January 3, 2019 New York Law Journal.

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  • Jonathan B. Bruno
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