The Very Narrow Privity Exception in Legal Malpractice
For social policy reasons, and probably to prevent wide-spread suits against opposing attorneys which might swamp the system, a legal malpractice complaint must allege an attorney-client relationship in order to survive. This question of privity is the first of several thresholds that a plaintiff must cross. In Mr. San, LLC v Zucker & Kwestel, LLP 2013 NY Slip Op 08416 [112 AD3d 796] December 18, 2013 Appellate Division, Second Department we see a case which slips into the exception.
"On a motion to dismiss pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (1), "dismissal is warranted only if the documentary evidence submitted conclusively establishes a defense to the asserted claims as a matter of law" (Leon v Martinez, 84 NY2d 83, 88 ). In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (7), the court must "accept the facts as alleged in the complaint as true, accord plaintiffs the benefit of every possible favorable inference, and determine only whether the facts as alleged fit within any cognizable legal theory" (Leon v Martinez, 84 NY2d at 87-88).
Applying these principles, the Supreme Court properly denied those branches of the defendants' motion which were pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (1) and (7) to dismiss the first cause of action, which sought to recover damages for legal malpractice. While the complaint does not allege an attorney-client relationship between the plaintiffs and the defendants, it sets forth a claim which falls within "the narrow exception of fraud, collusion, malicious acts or other special circumstances" under which a cause of action alleging attorney malpractice may be asserted absent a showing of privity (Ginsburg Dev. Cos., LLC v Carbone, 85 AD3d 1110, 1112  [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Aranki v Goldman & Assoc., LLP, 34 AD3d 510, 511-512 ; Griffith v Medical Quadrangle, 5 AD3d 151, 152 ). Furthermore, the documentary evidence submitted by the defendants does not conclusively establish a defense to this cause of action as a matter of law (see CPLR 3211 [a] )."