The "French Person" Defense in Legal Malpractice
In an otherwise garden or varietal attorney fee dispute with a legal malpractice defense, we ran across the "French Person" defense to attorney fees for the first time. Justice Gische, in Singer v Adler ; 2010 NY Slip Op 33439(U); Sup Ct, NY County gave it short shrift.
"This action is based upon claims for legal services rendered by plaintiff, Stephen Sayre Singer, to defendant, Joel A. Adler. Adler brings a pre-answer motion to dismiss the verified complaint against him on the basis that it is barred by the statute of limitations and alternatively, he is a “French person” and a New York Court does not have personal jurisdiction over him, pursuant to Article 14 of the Civil Code of the Republic of France. Both parties are attorneys at law and each is self represented in this action."
"Defendant generally claims there is no personal jurisdiction over him because he is a “French person.” Whether this argument pertains to long arm jurisdiction or service of process, it fails.
CPLR 5 302 provides that a court may assert jurisdiction over a non-domiciliary when the non-domiciliary “transacts any business within the state” and the cause of action arises out of that business. See CPLR 302 (a)(l). In order to have personal jurisdiction over a defendant, it is essential that the suit against the non-domiciliary have some “articulable nexus” to the business transacted. See McGowan v, Smith, 52 NY2d 268, 272 (1981). The basis of plaintiffs complaint, premised on plaintiffs performance of legal services for defendant, and the non-payment of legal fees, while defendant was domiciled in New York, amounts to “transaction of business within the state” and has an “articulable nexus” to the business transacted, specifically the provision of legal
services. Therefore, personal jurisdiction over defendant is proper. "