Bruno and Isaacson Obtain Summary Judgment Dismissal of Complaint

July 12, 2021 | Professional Liability

Jonathan Bruno and Deborah Isaacson secured summary judgment dismissal from the Supreme Court, New York County, of a complaint asserting claims for legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract.

The clients represented a trucking company and its driver in an automobile accident wherein the underlying plaintiff sustained injuries requiring multiple surgeries. The clients advised plaintiff, the third-party administrator for the trucking company and driver’s insurer, of the potential exposure to the insureds, but the plaintiff would not provide settlement authority consistent with the clients’ recommendations. The insurer ultimately authorized a settlement on the eve of trial.

Plaintiff sued the clients, alleging that the settlement was excessive and was compelled due to the clients’ purported negligence in failing to serve timely expert witness disclosures, which was likely to result in preclusion of the experts. The court denied plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment on the negligence and proximate cause elements of its legal malpractice claim, holding that it was entirely speculative that the clients could have succeeded at trial if the experts had testified, that the underlying action could have settled for less or that if the case had gone to trial, there would have been a defense verdict or an award lower than the settlement amount. The court also rejected the plaintiff’s expert opinion submitted in support of its motion as an impermissible legal conclusion.

In granting summary judgment in favor of the clients, the court agreed with Rivkin Radler’s argument that there was no attorney-client relationship between the plaintiff and our clients. While plaintiff relied on an assignment to support its claim, the court agreed that the assignment of the insurer’s subrogation rights was with another entity, not plaintiff. The court also agreed that plaintiff sustained no damages, as the settlement was paid entirely by the insurer. The court dismissed the breach of fiduciary duty claim as duplicative of the legal malpractice claim and dismissed the breach of contract claim because there was no contractual relationship between the plaintiff and Rivkin Radler’s clients.

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  • Jonathan B. Bruno
  • Deborah M. Isaacson

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