Bruno and Isaacson Obtain Pre-Answer Dismissal of Legal Malpractice Action

December 14, 2020 | Professional Liability

Jonathan Bruno and Debbie Isaacson moved to dismiss a legal malpractice action against their clients, a matrimonial law firm and its partner, related to their representation of the plaintiff in a divorce proceeding.

Plaintiff alleged that the attorneys were negligent in the preparation of a stipulation by which plaintiff exercised her option to purchase her husband’s share of their vacation home pursuant to the buy-out procedure of the prenuptial agreement the attorneys prepared in a separate representation years prior. The price of the home had not been determined at the time plaintiff executed the stipulation, and the subsequent valuation process resulted in a price that plaintiff believed was in excess of the home’s fair market value.

Bruno and Isaacson argued that plaintiff failed to state a claim for legal malpractice, as plaintiff wanted to purchase the vacation home and she was bound by the terms of the stipulation that she signed to exercise her option to do so. They also argued that plaintiff’s claim was time-barred, as it actually related to the buy-out procedure in the prenuptial agreement. Despite submitting an affidavit in opposition, in which plaintiff claimed the attorneys did not explain to her the meaning of “exercising an option,” and an affidavit from an expert that opined that the attorneys deviated from the standard of care, the court granted the motion to dismiss in its entirety.

Bruno and Isaacson successfully argued that both plaintiff and her expert misconstrued the terms of the prenuptial agreement in arguing that the attorneys were negligent in drafting the stipulation, as the prenuptial agreement did not provide for the determination of the value of the property before the option was exercised. The court agreed with Bruno and Isaacson’s arguments, finding that it was necessary to use the term “exercise” in the stipulation to effectuate the buyout of the home, and any claims related to plaintiff’s dissatisfaction with the buy-out provisions of the prenuptial agreement were time-barred.

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  • Jonathan B. Bruno
  • Deborah M. Isaacson

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