Entity Stays in Case, Individuals Out of Legal Malpractice Case

Privity, a requirement rather unique to legal malpractice cases in tort, is the reason that the individuals in this case are out, while the entity remains in the case.  It had privity, but they did not.  Leggiadro, Ltd. v Winston & Strawn, LLP   2014 NY Slip Op 05048   Decided on July 3, 2014
Appellate Division, First Department

"In this legal malpractice action, the individual plaintiffs, who are not identified as clients in the written retainer agreement and did not sign the retainer in an individual capacity, failed to establish the existence of an attorney-client relationship (see Federal Ins. Co. v North Am. Specialty Ins. Co., 47 AD3d 52, 59 [1st Dept 2007]; cf. Huffner v Ziff, Weiermiller, Hayden & Mustico, LLP, 55 AD3d 1009 [3d Dept 2008]). Brooks Ross's claim to have requested that defendant advise of "any and all tax liabilities arising from [a] Buy-Out" of Leggiadro's commercial lease, does not, without more, create a duty to advise the individual plaintiffs of the personal income tax ramifications of the buy-out arising by virtue of their status as S-Corporation shareholders. No "special circumstances" upon which to find a "near privity" relationship and extend liability to the individual plaintiffs have been alleged (compare Good Old Days Tavern v Zwirn, 259 AD2d 300 [1st Dept 1999]; Town Line Plaza Assoc. v Contemporary Props., 223 AD2d 420 [1st Dept 1996]). Moreover, the individual plaintiffs' history of paying pass-through taxes on the S-Corporation precludes them from reasonably relying on defendant's alleged failure to identify such liability here (see Ableco Fin. LLC v Hilson, 109 AD3d 438 [1st Dept 2013], lv denied 22 NY3d 864 [2014])."

"In order to defeat the motion to dismiss, Leggiadro only needed to "plead allegations from which damages attributable to defendant's conduct might be reasonably inferred" (InKine Pharm. Co. v Coleman, 305 AD2d 151, 152 [1st Dept 2003] [internal quotation marks and brackets [*2]omitted]). Leggiadro's claim that, had it known of the full tax ramifications of the buy-out, it would have either insisted that the landlord account for such amount in the settlement figure, in order to make relocation financially viable, or refused to relocate, is not speculative and is instead based upon, inter alia, Leggiadro's alleged strong bargaining position with its landlord, as evidenced by the amount of time left on the lease, the absence of an immediate need to relocate, and the alleged importance of the leased space in the landlord's conversion plans (see Fielding v Kupferman, 65 AD3d 437 [1st Dept 2009]; cf. Sherwood Group v Dornbush, Mensch, Mandelstam & Silverman, 191 AD2d 292, 294 [1st Dept 1993])."

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