Gobindram v Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, P.C., 2019 NY Slip Op 06190
Decided on August 21, 2019 Appellate Division, Second Department stand for the proposition that when an attorney has a second chance to correct mistakes and fails to do so, a claim for legal malpractice may be good.
“The defendants represented the plaintiff in connection with his filing of a voluntary bankruptcy petition in federal court in August 2011. Although the Statement of Financial Affairs (hereinafter SOFA) form appended to the petition called for the disclosure of recent payments to creditors and insiders, the plaintiff failed to report such payments he made to creditors and to his wife from 2010 tax refunds he had received in May and June 2011. Rather, the SOFA indicated that no such payments were made. The plaintiff’s signature on the SOFA was preceded by the following statement: “I declare under penalty of perjury that I have read the answers contained in the foregoing statement of financial affairs and any attachments thereto and that they are true and correct.” Shortly after the commencement of the proceeding, the bankruptcy trustee requested an accounting of the transfers that had disposed of the plaintiff’s 2010 tax refunds, and the omissions in the SOFA then came to light. In November 2011, two of the plaintiff’s major creditors commenced an adversary proceeding in the Bankruptcy Court, contending that the plaintiff should be denied a discharge in bankruptcy based on his misrepresentations in the SOFA relating to the disposition of the 2010 tax refunds. In his defense, the plaintiff argued that the defendants had prepared the bankruptcy submissions and he had relied on them to do so accurately.
At the ensuing trial in the adversary proceeding, the defendants admitted that they had been aware of the plaintiff’s transfers of his 2010 tax refunds at the time they prepared the bankruptcy petition and had erroneously checked boxes marked “none” where the SOFA called for their disclosure. The plaintiff admitted that the defendants had provided him with a copy of the draft petition to review before they filed it and that he had represented to them that he had read it and that it was accurate, and that he had signed the verification line of the petition declaring that it was true and correct despite the fact that he had not actually read the petition in its entirety before signing.”
“However, we disagree with the Supreme Court’s determination granting that branch of the defendants’ motion which was to dismiss so much of the legal malpractice cause of action as sought to recover damages for the defendants’ failure to amend the bankruptcy petition. The findings of the federal courts regarding the knowing and fraudulent conduct on the plaintiff’s part related solely to the initial filing; they made no determination that the plaintiff acted knowingly and fraudulently in failing to file an amended petition. Accordingly, that part of the plaintiff’s legal malpractice cause of action is not subject to dismissal on the grounds of collateral estoppel and in pari delicto.
As an alternative ground for affirmance (see Parochial Bus Sys. v Board of Educ. of City of N.Y., 60 NY2d 539, 545-546), the defendants contend that the legal malpractice cause of action should have been dismissed in its entirety pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7), since the parties’ evidentiary submissions on the motion established that the plaintiff hired subsequent counsel who had ample opportunity to rectify their alleged error in this regard (see e.g. Perks v Lauto & Garabedian, 306 AD2d 261, 262). This contention lacks merit.”