Commercial client hires a law firm to litigate its claims against a municipality.  The law firm fails to file a Notice of Claim and similarly fails to file a motion seeking leave to file a late notice of claim.  The worst is yet to come.  The law firm has allowed its malpractice insurance to lapse, and has no assets.  How can this happen?

Garrison Contr., Inc. v Medina, Torrey, Mamo & Camacho, P.C. 2015 NY Slip Op 30782(U) May 15, 2015 Supreme Court, Putnam County Docket Number: 603/13 Judge: Lewis J. Lubell is an example of just how badly a law firm can hurt its clients.

“Plaintiffs bring this action for legal malpractice against, among others, the Law Firm of Medina, Torrey, Mamo & Camacho, P.C. (the “Firm”) and one of its members in his individual capacity, By Decision & Order of February 17, 2015, the Court granted Torrey’s 1 motion to dismiss as unopposed. Thereafter, the Court was advised that the motion had in fact been adjourned. That decision is now vacated. [* 1] David Torrey (“Torrey”), who personally handled the underlying litigation in an action entitled Town of Philipstown v. Garrison Contracting Inc. (Putnam County Index No. 324/2008; [the “Underlying Action”]). The thrust of this legal malpractice 2 action is the failure of Defendants to have timely filed a notice of claim with the Town of Philipstown on behalf of Plaintiffs in connection with Plaintiffs’ allegations against Philipstown, by way of amended answer with counter-claims in the Underlying Action and, in any event, the failure of Defendants to have sought leave to file a late notice of claim in connection therewith. Plaintiffs note that it was the very absence of a notice of claim and failure to have sought leave to file a late notice of claim that ultimately lead to the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ counterclaim against Philipstown upon appeal (see Town of Philipstown v Garrison Contr., Inc., 85 AD3d 1014 [2d Dept 2011]).

“Plaintiffs failed to exercise due diligence in attempting to serve the summons and complaint upon Torrey within 120 days of the filing of the complaint, nor ever for that matter. It was only upon learning during the course of discovery that the Firm had allowed its malpractice insurance policy to lapse, had no assets and would not be able to satisfy any judgment, that Plaintiffs turned their attention to Torrey who had not yet been served with process. Despite Plaintiffs’ ongoing knowledge of Torrey’s whereabouts, availability and participation in the underlying lawsuit as a member of the Firm, Plaintiffs did not serve Torrey with process until November 20, 2014, some twenty months after the commencement of the action. “