Big Firms, Big Case, Big Headache
The business of legal representation in real estate transactions has buoyed law firms since the Magna Carta. It is not a completely carefree practice, as Haberman v Xander Corp. 2012 NY Slip Op 31645(U) June 11, 2012 Sup Ct, Nassau County Docket Number: 021508/10 Judge: Randy Sue Marber demonstrates:
"It appears from the Third-Party complaint that in or about October 2002, the Third-Part Defendant, Michael Zapson and later the Defendant, DMH, was retained by the Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff, Xander, to represent it in connection with a legal matter relating to a parcel of real property known as 350 Shore Road, Long Beach, New York owned by the Plaintiffs herein and located adjacent to the west of real property known as 360 Shore Road owned by the Defendant/Third-Part Plaintiff, Xander. The Plaintiffs, Sinclair Haberman and Belair Building, LLC (Haberman/Belair) were the developers of the property on which several multiple dwelling buildings were to be constructed over several years. After all of the units in Xander s building (Tower A " ), the first to be constructed, located at 360 Shore Road, had been sold, the Plaintiffs, Haberman/Belair, sought to develop the adjacent property where they proposed to construct Tower "B " The building permit issued on August 12 2003, permitting construction of the second building was, however, revoked by decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals of the City of Long Beach dated December 29 2003.
In or about September 2003, the Third-Part Defendants, on behalf of the Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff, Xander, filed a Petition (bearing Index No. 014069/03) to determine title by adverse possession to, and/or a prescriptive easement over, part of 350 Shore Road for the purpose inter alia of preserving the parking plan of 360 Shore Road. The litigation, which continued for seven years, culminated in a bench trial which resulted in dismissal of Xander's Petition by order of the Hon. William R. LaMarca entered January 15, 2010.
As a consequence of that dismissal, the Plaintiffs, Haberman/Belair commenced this action against the Defendant, Xander, and its board members alleging that because of the preliminary injunction obtained by Xander , the Plaintiffs were wrongfully prevented from proceeding with construction of Tower "B" at 350 Shore Road. The Plaintiffs allege that the adverse possession action prosecuted by Xander constituted malicious prosecution for which they seek to recover damages as well as the amount of the undertaking.
Inasmuch as the relief sought in the counterclaim asserted by Xander in the action (Index No. 002496/10), before the Hon. Antonio Brandveen damages in an amount to be determined at trial to recoup part of the attorneys' fees it has already paid as a result of Plaintiff DMH's' s conduct" is different from the indemnification and/or contribution claims Xander asserts in the amended Third-Part complaint in this action, there is no basis to dismiss the Third-Part complaint on CPLR ~ 3211 (a) (4) grounds as there are not two action(s) pending between the same parties for the same cause of action in a court of any state or the United States. Nor was there any basis to order consolidation of the two actions. A motion for joint trial pursuant to CPLR 602 ( a) rests in the sound discretion of the court. Nationwide Assoc. v. Targee St. Internal Med Group, P. 286 A.D 2d 717,718 (2d Dept. 2001). Where common questions of law or fact exist , a motion to consolidate
or for a joint trial pursuant to CPLR 602 (a) will be granted absent a showing of prejudice to a substantial right of the part opposing the motion. Whitman v. Parsons Transp. Group of NY, Inc. 72 A. 3d 677 678 (2d Dept. 2010). The court finds no basis, equitable or otherwise, that the claim by the Defendant/Third-Party Xander's former attorneys for unpaid counsel fees for services rendered, settled on June 1 2012, should have been delayed or resolved in the context of the malicious prosecution claim in which the Defendant/Third-Part Plaintiff, Xander, seeks contribution and indemnification for any damages the Plaintiff, Haberman/Belair , may recover against it in this action."