A House Sale Goes Wrong. Was the Attorney to Blame?
We've recently reported on a legal malpractice in a $25 Million real estate project, as well as in a $ 40 Million re-insurance deal. Here, plaintiff feels no less stung in a single house real estate transaction gone bad. Was the attorney to blame? So far the case avoided dismissal under CPLR 3211. Whether it will ever go to trial is a different question.
Arias v Arbelaez 2014 NY Slip Op 50428(U) Decided on March 17, 2014 Supreme Court, Queens County McDonald, J. we see some sophisticated and unsophisticated people fooling around with real estate and mortgages.
"According to the supplemental summons and amended verified complaint, filed on October 3, 2013, the plaintiff, Amparo Arias, was approached by defendant, Jorge E. Arbelaez, with respect to purchasing the subject premises, a residential property located at 250-02, 87th Avenue, Bellerose, New York. Plaintiff alleges that on December 17, 2011, she entered into a written "Acquisition Agreement" with Arbelaez whereby plaintiff would provide the necessary funds to acquire the property, and Arbelaez would handle the administrative process. The agreement stated that each party would be a 50% owner of a corporation known as "THREE A'S 250-02 LLC" formed to hold title of the premises and the corporation would hold the title in trust for the benefit of the plaintiff with title to ultimately pass to the plaintiff as the equitable owner on a future date. In order to acquire the premises, the buyer, THREE A'S 250-02 LLC, was to assume four separate mortgages totaling $550,000 and plaintiff would put up $50,000 for the acquisition of the property. The complaint states that defendant Hector Marichal represented the plaintiff, defendant Arbelaez, and the corporation in the acquisition of the premises.
Plaintiff alleges that she paid $50,000, a portion of which went to Arbelaez and a portion to Hector Marichal, as attorney, to cover the costs of acquiring the premises. On March 2, 2012 the corporation was taking title to the property subject to the four mortgages. Plaintiff claims that subsequent to the purchase she expended an additional $60,000 to settle and satisfy three existing mortgages on the property. Plaintiff claims that in March 2013 defendants Arbelaez and Marichal did not remit any of the monies she paid towards the first mortgage and as a result the property is in foreclosure. In addition, plaintiff contends that she did not receive marketable title in her name nor has she received any of the corporate documents for Three A's 25-02 LLC after repeated requests.
Plaintiff asserts causes of action for a constructive trust asserting that the plaintiff is the equitable owner of the property and that nominal title was taken in the name of the corporation on behalf of the plaintiff and that despite her investment of $110,000 defendants have refused to reconvey title to the plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that as a result, the defendants will be unjustly enriched if the premises are [*3]permitted to remain as presently titled.
With respect to defendant Hector Marichal, the complaint alleges that he was part of a conspiracy with the other defendants in which they had a preconceived intention not to honor their obligations to plaintiff but rather to secure their business interests for their own benefit. Therefore, plaintiff asserts causes of action against Hector Marichal for fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract and legal malpractice. Plaintiff asserts in this regard that Marichal had no intention of fully representing plaintiff in the transaction and induced the plaintiff to transfer at least $110,000 to defendant as legal fees and acquisition costs. Counsel alleges that Marichal breached his legal and contractual duties to the plaintiff by engaging in fraudulent and deceitful conduct, failing to deliver marketable title, failing to inform plaintiff that the premises was in foreclosure prior to the purchase, and failing to disclose his conflict of interest with the seller, Ramirez.
Here, accepting the allegations in the complaint as true, according the plaintiff the benefit of every favorable inference, and determining only whether the allegations fit within any cognizable legal theory (see DeSandolo v United Airlines Inc., 71 AD3d 1073 [2d Dept.2010]; AG Capital Funding Partners, L.P. v State St. Bank & Trust Co., 5 NY3d 58 ), this Court finds that the plaintiff has sufficiently stated a cause of action for fraud, legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty against Marichal. In the early stages of litigation such as the pre-discovery stage, "plaintiffs are entitled to the most favorable inferences, including inferences arising from the positions and responsibilities of defendants," and "plaintiffs need only set forth sufficient information to apprise defendants of the alleged wrongs" (DDJ Mgt., LLC v Rhone Group L.L.C., 78 AD3d 442 [1st Dept. 2010]; also see Selechnik v Law Off. of Howard R. Birnbach, 82 AD3d 1077 [2d Dept. 2011).