Boomers, Real Estate, True Love and Legal Malpractice

Anyone reading the case of Charell v Brenig   2014 NY Slip Op 30304(U)  January 27, 2014
Sup Ct, New York County  Docket Number: 158589/12  Judge: Joan A. Madden will see the dangers in romance and how true love might turn out.  A New Yorker will recognize the questions of real estate, rent stabilized apartments, and the relationship of Manhattan to the outer boroughs (place of "inferior apartments.")  An attorney will see the relationship of hiring an attorney and legal malpractice.

"Defendants F. Avril Brenig and Julian Lowenfeld, Esq. move for an order pursuant to CPLR 321 l(a)(5) and (7 ), dismissing the complaint on the grounds of statute of frauds and failure to state a cause of action. Defendants also seek an award of costs and attorney's fees as sanctions for frivolous litigation. 1 Plaintiff Ralph C~arell opposes the motion.  In March 2012, plaintiff Charell and defendant Brenig met through the Internet dating site Match.com and began a romantic relationship. At the time, plaintiff was 82 years old, and defendant, a retired widow, was 73 years old. In September 2012, plaintiff moved into Brenig's Mitchell Lama apartment at 150 West 96th Street. Plaintiff alleges that in mid-October 2012, Brenig told him she "changed her mine" and "no longer wanted to cohabitate with him." On October 22, he voluntarily left the apartment after Brenig summoned the police. In November 2012, plaintiff commenced this action, asserting first and second causes of action against Brenig for breach of contract and promissory estoppel, third and fourth causes of action against Brenig and Lowenfeld for fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress,  and fifth and sixth causes of action against Lowenfeld for legal malpractice and professional negligence. The complaint alleges Brenig "induced" plaintiff to surrender his rent stabilized apartment at 311 East 72nd Street, and he relied upon her representations that if he moved into her apartment, she would "provide him with a room in her apartment for the rest of his life," he would "become a 'cooperator' on the proprietary lease, and participate in the profits if the building was converted," he would be "added" to her will, and they "would share equally in living expenses." Plaintiff alleges Brenig told him that if the relationship did not work out, he could "reside in the middle bedroom for the rest of his life," and assured him that "under no circumstances would he be asked to vacate the apartment." He alleges his rent stabilized apartment had a rental value of less than 40% of market value, resulting in damages in.excess of $150,000, and that he abandoned "much of his personal property, including furniture, books paintings, and collectibles" worth more than $25,000. Plaintiff alleges that on October 15, 2012, Brenig invited defendant Lowenfeld, an attorney, to the apartment, who introduced himself "as a mediator tasked with crafting a mutually acceptable separation between plaintiff and Brenig." The complaint alleges Lowenfeld specially  stated he was not Brenig's attorney, "but rather a mediator acting on behalf of both parties." Plaintiff alleges Lowenfeld conducted two mediation sessions on October 15 and 16, during which Lowenfeld "misrepresented plaintiffs legal rights, stating definitively that plaintiff had no right to reside" in Brenig's apartment and that he should begin looking for a new apartment immediately. The complaint alleges that on October 22, Lowenfeld told plaintiff that he was not a neutral mediator, but Brenig's attorney, and that he had contacted the police and plaintiff had two choices, to leave the apartment immediately, or be escorted out by the police. Lowenfeld then called the police, who escorted plaintiff out of the apartment. Plaintiff alleges he packed just one suitcase,"and Lowenfeld told him his remaining property would be moved to a storage unit the next day. Plaintiff alleges he checked into a hotel, "began to experience severe chest palpitations," and, believing he was having a heart attack, he went to the emergency room where he was diagnosed with "tachycardia,  palpitations and   hypertension." He alleges that prior to that time, he had never suffered any of those ailments. He also alleges he was caused to suffer severe anxiety and extreme emotional distress by the "daunting task of finding an apartment he could afford and figuring out a way to maintain even a modest standard of living," and he is now living in an "inferior apartment in Astoria, Queens." He alleges that "by reason of the mistreatment and elder abuse described above, he was forced to spend thousands of dollars to replace several personal items he had discarded," and is "also living under continuous, severe stress that has adversely affected his health." "

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