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NY: The Importance of a Prima Facie Underlying Case

Adamopoulos v. Liotti, 708 N.Y.S.2d 706, (2000)

NY Underlying tort action

Student Contributor: Jason Zemsky

Facts: Plaintiff was injured when she tripped and fell on a stair case at an LIRR station. The plaintiff retained the defendant to represent her in the action, but the defendant failed to timely commence an action on her behalf. The plaintiff then brought an action for legal malpractice against the defendants. The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which was denied.

Issue: Did genuine issues of materials facts exist that the plaintiff could have proved to prevail if the defendant had timely commenced an action?

Ruling: Affirmed.

“To state a claim for legal malpractice, the plaintiff must show that the defendants failed to exercise the skill commonly exercised by an ordinary member of the legal community, that such negligence was the proximate cause of damages, and that ‘but for’ such negligence the plaintiff would have prevailed on the underlying action.”

Contrary to the defendants’ contention, it cannot be concluded as a matter of law that the defect in the staircase was of such a trivial nature that it could not have given rise to a legal liability on the part of the LIRR. There is an issue as to whether or not the plaintiff would have prevailed against the LIRR had the defendants filed a timely action.  

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Posted in: New York