There are some unique rules and principles in legal malpractice. One of them is that damages have to be in the nature of pecuniary or economic loss. Another is that damages have to be proximately linked to the departure by the attorney.
In Iannucci v Kucker & Bruh, LLP 2018 NY Slip Op 03514 Decided on May 16, 2018 Appellate Division, Second Department defendants called damages speculative. This seemed to be good enough for Supreme Court, but not for the Appellate Division.
“In November 2002, the plaintiffs Robert Iannucci and Sonia Ewers, principals of the plaintiffs Clocktower Properties and Team Obsolete Promotions, Inc. (hereinafter collectively the plaintiffs), purchased property located at 325 Gold Street in Brooklyn (hereinafter the building), which, at that time, was zoned for commercial use. In connection with their purchase, Iannucci and Ewers assumed, among other things, the interest and rights in certain actions commenced by the previous owner to evict residential tenants located on the building’s second, fifth, and sixth floors, and in the south basement unit. Iannucci retained the defendants to represent the plaintiffs in the ongoing eviction actions and to take or maintain legal actions against subtenants in the building. During the time that the defendants represented the plaintiffs in the eviction actions, three of the four floors at issue were vacated either by settlement or as a result of an award of summary judgment. In January 2005, Iannucci retained new counsel. The remaining residential tenants eventually vacated the premises.
Subsequently, the plaintiffs commenced this action, inter alia, to recover damages for legal malpractice, alleging, among other things, that the defendants failed to prosecute the underlying eviction actions in a timely manner, which caused the plaintiffs to lose rental income in excess of $500,000. After the completion of discovery, the defendants moved, among other things, for summary judgment dismissing the legal malpractice cause of action. In the order appealed from, the Supreme Court, inter alia, granted that branch of the defendants’ motion which was for summary judgment dismissing that cause of action on the ground that the plaintiffs’ claim of loss was based [*2]on speculation. The plaintiffs appeal, as limited by their brief, from so much of the order as granted that branch of the defendants’ motion. We reverse the order insofar as appealed from.”
“Moreover, even if the plaintiffs’ damages cannot be precisely calculated at this stage, expenses to the client resulting from attorney delays are deemed to be ascertainable damages in connection with a legal malpractice cause of action (see e.g. VDR Realty Corp. v Mintz, 167 AD2d 986, 987 [noting that the plaintiff’s legal malpractice cause of action was validly grounded in allegations that the defendant attorney “unreasonably delayed the prosecution of a landlord-tenant holdover proceeding and engaged in dilatory tactics, thereby increasing the attorney’s fee and causing other consequential damages”]; accord Miuccio v Straci, 129 AD3d 515, 516 [motion for summary judgment dismissing legal malpractice cause of action was properly denied by the trial court where the plaintiff alleged that he sustained damages due to the defendant attorney’s delay]; see also Plato Gen. Constr. Corp./EMCO Tech Constr. Corp., JV, LLC v Dormitory Auth. of State of N.Y., 89 AD3d 819, 825-826 [noting that, regarding damages for delay, a “plaintiff must show that defendant was responsible for the delay; that these delays caused delay in completion of the contract (eliminating overlapping or duplication of delays); that the plaintiff suffered damages as a result of these delays; and plaintiff must furnish some rational basis for the court to estimate those damages, although obviously a precise measure is neither possible nor required” (internal quotation marks omitted)]; Manshul Constr. Corp. v Dormitory Auth. of State of N.Y., 79 AD2d 383, 387).”