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NY: Plaintiff's Misconduct Can't Be Involved In Malpractice

Selletti v. Liotti, 804 NYS 2d 739, 22 A.D.3d 739 (2d Dept 2005)

NY: Underlying litigation; sanctions for discovery abuses

Student Contributor: M. Rubin

Facts: Defendant attorney represented plaintiff client in a federal action. The federal court  imposed monetary sanctions of $5,000 on plaintiff client for discovery abuses. Plaintiff then brought a claim in state court alleging that defendant’s mishandling the federal action resulted in the monetary sanction. The state motion court denied plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability, in plaintiff’s action to recover damages for legal malpractice.  The Appellate Court  explains that

“While the issue of whether certain conduct constitutes legal malpractice is generally a factual determination to be made by the jury, a plaintiff will be entitled to summary judgment in a case where there is no conflict at all in the evidence, the defendant’s conduct fell below any permissible standard of due care, and the plaintiff’s conduct was not really involved .”

Issue: Did plaintiff establish that his own conduct was not really involved in the attorney’s actions that were sanctioned?

Ruling: The court held that the plaintiff failed to establish that his own conduct had nothing to do with the monetary sanctions being imposed, and the court thus upheld its denial of plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment

Lesson:  In a legal malpractice claim based on  sanctions imposed for discovery abuses,  it is important for a plaintiff to present evidence sufficient to establish that his own conduct in the sanctioned conduct  was not involved.  

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Posted in: New York