Is Survival of Secondary Claims in Legal Malpractice a Trend?
Causes of Action for Breach of Fiduciary Duty not dismissed...causes of action for breach of contract not dismissed. Is this a trend? Today in Cherry Hill Mkt. Corp. v Cozen O'Connor P.C.
2014 NY Slip Op 04248 Decided on June 12, 2014 appellate Division, First Department we see dismissal of the legal malpractice claim, but reversal on the breach of fiduciary duty claim, which in this case is over excessive fees.
"Plaintiffs' third cause of action, alleging that defendants breached their fiduciary duty because they either collected and/or billed plaintiffs for excessive and/or unearned fees, should not have been dismissed as duplicative of the malpractice causes of action (see Loria v Cerniglia, 69 AD3d 583, 583 [2d Dept 2010]). The third cause of action was not based upon the same facts underlying the malpractice claims (cf. Cosmetics Plus Group, Ltd. v Traub, 105 AD3d 134, 143 [1st Dept 2013], lv denied 22 NY3d 855 ). With respect to the instant complaint, a claim [*2]of breach of fiduciary duty can be premised on excessive legal fees charged by an attorney (see Sobell v Ansonelli, 98 AD3d 1020, 1022 [2nd Dept 2012] see also Nason v Fisher, 36 AD3d 486, 487 [1st Dept 2007])."
Compare: "Contrary to the Supreme Court's determination, however, the plaintiff's second cause of action, which alleged breach of contract and sought to recover $5,875 in damages, representing the amount he had paid to the defendant, based on, inter alia, overbilling, was not necessarily duplicative of the first cause of action (see O'Connor v Blodnick, Abramowitz & Blodnick, 295 AD2d 586, 587). Moreover, while the court concluded that the plaintiff could seek these damages as a counterclaim in the separate action commenced by the defendant (see Molinoff v Tanenbaum, _____ AD3d _____ [decided herewith]), at the time the order appealed from was issued, that action had been dismissed. " Tanenbaum v Molinoff 2014 NY Slip Op 04186
Decided on June 11, 2014 Appellate Division, Second Department