It's Almost Always the Underlying Case

UTICA:    The battle in legal malpractice cases almost always centers on the question of "but for", that hypothetical comparison of the actual outcome to the ideal outcome, had there been no malpractice. Dischiavi v Calli  2013 NY Slip Op 07289 [111 AD3d 1258]  November 8, 2013
Appellate Division, Fourth Department  is a prime example.  Sure, the attorneys told the client that an expert physician was examining the client, when it was really an attorney, and sure the attorneys told the client that a well experienced physician was reviewing the records when it was really a veterinarian, but so what?  Could he have won if they did a good job is the real question.

"Memorandum: Plaintiffs commenced this action seeking damages for, inter alia, breach of contract, legal malpractice and fraud, alleging, among other things, that defendants failed to commence timely legal actions to recover damages arising from injuries sustained by Gary M. Dischiavi (plaintiff). Plaintiffs allege in their complaint that plaintiff was injured as the result of an accident that occurred while he was on duty as a City of Utica police officer in 1991, and that he was further injured as a result of his ensuing medical treatment. Although plaintiffs retained defendant law firm of Calli, Kowalczyk, Tolles, Deery and Soja (CKTDS) to represent them with respect to possible claims arising from those injuries, no action was ever instituted. Plaintiffs further allege that defendants purported to have plaintiff examined by an expert physician but had a lawyer examine him instead, purported to have other expert physicians review plaintiff's medical records but had a veterinarian perform that review, misrepresented that they had commenced a personal injury action on plaintiffs' behalf, and created a fake settlement agreement for that "action." This case was previously before us on appeal, and we determined, inter alia, that Supreme Court erred in granting the motions and cross motion of various defendants for summary judgment dismissing the complaint in its entirety against them (Dischiavi v Calli [appeal No. 2], 68 AD3d 1691, 1692-1694 [2009]).

Defendants Andrew S. Kowalczyk, Joseph Stephen Deery, Jr., and CKTDS (collectively, CKTDS defendants), along with defendant William S. Calli, Jr. (Calli, Jr.), as administrator C.T.A. of the estate of former defendant William S. Calli, Sr., contend that the court erred in denying their motions insofar as they concern the underlying medical malpractice claim. Specifically, the CKTDS defendants and Calli, Jr., contend that the underlying medical malpractice claim lacks merit, and thus that plaintiffs could not recover damages based on the failure of those defendants to commence a timely action based on that claim. We conclude, however, that the court properly denied the motions to that extent inasmuch as the CKTDS defendants and Calli, Jr. failed to meet their initial burden of establishing that plaintiffs' medical malpractice claim lacks merit (see generally Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Ctr., 64 NY2d 851, 853 [1985]; Welch v State of New York, 105 AD3d 1450, 1451 [2013]). In any event, plaintiffs raised a triable issue of fact (see generally Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562 [1980]).