Jewelery and a World of Malpractice Trouble
Legal Malpractice cases arise everywhere, and in so many circumstances, In Manus v Flamm , 2011 NY Slip Op 31691(U); Supreme Court, New York County; Docket Number: 110026/2007; Judge: Debra A. James tells an interesting story of divorce, legal malpractice and itinerant jewelery. Plaintiff is the divorced wife, who is owed $ 1 million in the divorce. She borrows jewelery from the husband's safe deposit and ends up in a world of trouble.
"In the FM action, FM initially sought to recover- possession of certain jewelry that, it alleges, Manus pledged as collateral against a $400,000 loan made by FM to her in 1994. FM alleges t h a t , after retrieving the jewelry from a jeweler to whom Manus had consigned it for sale, Manus failed to return it: to a safe deposit box maintained by her ex-husband, nonparty Allen Manus (deceased, November 2 0 0 3 ) , a founder of FM, in breach of the terms of the May 4, 1994 loan security agreement, as amended May 5, 1994. On September 28, 1999, Manus entered into a stipulation with FM, prepared by FM's counsel and signed by Elizabeth Manus, Allen Manus's wife and FM's sole officer. Pursuant to the stipulation, Manus was authorized to retain the jewelry f o r nine months in order to sell it, and repay the $400,000 loan. The stipulation also provides that Manus's cooperative apartment shares would be substituted for the jewelry as collateral under- a September 1999 stock pledge agreement . The ,st.stock:k pledge agreement identifies
Flamm as the escrow agent holding the stock certificates. Manus denies that she ever received $400,000 from FM, and contends that, therefore, the June 15, 1994 promissory note in
that amount bearing her signature is not enforceable.
With respect to the stipulation, Manus alleges that she signed it at Flamm' s insistence, and that Flamm refused to explain the terms, and their ramifications, to h e r . Flamm ' alleges that Manus signed solely at Allen Manus's urging, and without Flamm'a advice. Manus and Flamm both allege that Allen Manus agreed to arrange for FM to release Manus from the stipulation. Manus alleges that Allen Manus advised her to have her attorney, Flamm, contact FMIs attorneys to obtain.ain the
release. In November 2000, Flamm prepared a release and forwarded it to FM's attorneys. Flamm alleges that , during the ensuing negotiations regarding the release terms, FM's attorneys refused to permit FM t.o release Manus from liability because Allen Manus owed t h e m attorneys' fees. Flamm further alleges that Elizabeth Manus refused to sign any document,t releasing Manus from liability, and that he was advised that she was the only individual with the authority to bind FM to the release.
Flamm's own admissions regarding the underlying facts alleged in the complaint and the documentary evidence conclusively demonstrate that Flamm continuously represented
Manus with regard t o the FM action from October 1998 through January 2005."