Aside from the fact that almost all of the parties to this transaction, as well as to the legal representation are dead, the point of this case is that courts will not allow speculation on what advice might have been given and how a specific person might have reacted to that advice, when there is no objective way of answering the question.
Gourary v Green 2016 NY Slip Op 06888 Decided on October 20, 2016 Appellate Division, First Department is the story of an elderly man’s disposition of a corporation and how it affected the next generation.
“Plaintiff, the administrator of the estate of his deceased father, Paul Gourary (Gourary), alleges that, in connection with the May 2006 sale of Gourary’s 50% share in a New York S-corporation to defendant Macomber, the son-in-law of the corporation’s other 50% shareholder, Oliver Laster (since deceased) (Laster), defendant Paul Green (since deceased) and his law firm, defendant Green & Ettinger, committed legal malpractice and fraud in connection with their representation of Gourary in the sale, enabling Macomber to purchase Gourary’s interest in the corporation at a steep discount.
The Green defendants established prima facie, through deposition testimony and two experts’ affidavits, that the sale was consistent with Gourary’s objectives, that Green did not represent Macomber before the deal was struck, and that the evidence did not support an inference that Green’s representation violated the ethics rules or was inconsistent with the standard of professional conduct (see AmBase Corp. v Davis Polk & Wardwell, 8 NY3d 428, 434 ). Moreover, defendants established the absence of proximately caused damages; since “there is no way to know whether the advice not given . . . would have altered the [outcome],'” the claim of damages is speculative (id. at 436; see also Fielding v Kupferman, 104 AD3d 580 [1st Dept 2013], lv denied 21 NY3d 859 ; Global Bus. Inst. v Rivkin Radler LLP, 101 AD3d 651, 652 [1st Dept 2012]).
Contrary to plaintiff’s contention, the Green defendants were not required to submit an expert opinion on the issue of causation. Unlike issues implicating “the byzantine world of immigration law” (see Suppiah v Kalish, 76 AD3d 829, 833 [1st Dept 2010], appeal withdrawn 16 NY3d 796 ), the issue of causation in this case rests on the “discrete factual question” of how Gourary, a lay person, would have reacted to certain information (see Wo Yee Hing Realty Corp. v Stern, 99 AD3d 58, 63 [1st Dept 2012]).
In opposition, plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact. There is no evidence that Green represented Macomber and Gourary dually in connection with the negotiations for the sale of Gourary’s share of the corporation. Before making an offer, Macomber had consulted a tax lawyer; later he retained separate counsel to provide services in connection with the transaction. Moreover, Green’s structuring of the transaction favored Gourary’s interests over those of Macomber. Plaintiff’s real estate law expert’s opinion concerning the alleged dual representation was made without the benefit of knowing what, if anything, Green and Gourary discussed with [*2]respect to the price of the sale, and assumes that there were either no such discussions or that, on Green’s side, the discussions failed to sufficiently promote Gourary’s interests. In contrast to Papaioannou v Lukas (170 AD2d 289 [1st Dept 1991]), relied upon by plaintiff, there are no questions here about the nature of advice Green provided Gourary. The nature of that advice is simply unknown.”