Clients and attorneys all too often focus, almost entirely, on the “mistake” made in a legal malpractice setting, while giving little thought to the “but for” element. What would have happened if the mistake had not been made. 762 Westchester Ave. Realty, LLC v Mavrelis 2018 NY Slip Op 08452 [167 AD3d 684] December 12, 2018 Appellate Division, Second Department is a good example. The Court reversed when it found insufficient proof of whether the tax abatement would have been given had the request been timely made.
“The plaintiff, a limited liability corporation that owned real property in the Bronx, commenced this action alleging, inter alia, legal malpractice against the defendant Bill Mavrelis, also known as William N. Mavrelis (hereinafter the defendant). Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that it had retained the defendant to prepare and file an application for a tax abatement on the plaintiff’s behalf, that the defendant filed the application late, and that the lateness of the filing was the basis for the denial of the application. Prior to the completion of discovery, the plaintiff moved, inter alia, for summary judgment on the issue of liability with respect to the cause of action alleging legal malpractice. In an order dated January 4, 2016, the Supreme Court, among other things, granted that branch of the motion. The defendant appeals from that portion of the order.”
“Here, the plaintiff failed to establish its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on the issue of the defendant’s liability, as it failed to present any evidence that its application for the subject tax abatement would have been granted had it been timely filed (see Zaidman v Marcel Weisman, LLC, 106 AD3d at 814; Erdman v Dell, 50 AD3d at 628). Moreover, the limited, pre-discovery record before us presents unresolved triable issues of fact regarding the cause of the late filing, including the extent, if any, to which such cause is attributable to any act or omission on the part of the defendant.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court should have denied that branch of the plaintiff’s motion which was for summary judgment on the issue of the defendant’s liability for legal malpractice, regardless of the sufficiency of the defendant’s opposing papers (see Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Ctr., 64 NY2d 851, 853 ).”