Privity of Contract is a doctrine which applies to legal malpractice representations even while it withers as a general principle in product liability cases and elsewhere. Loss of standing in Bankruptcy often comes up as well. In National Air Cargo, Inc. v Jenner & Block, LLP
2022 NY Slip Op 01900 Appellate Division, Fourth Department, both come up.
“In appeal No. 3, we conclude that the court properly dismissed the professional negligence/legal malpractice cause of action against JB, insofar as asserted by NAC, on the ground of judicial estoppel. The “doctrine of judicial estoppel may bar a party from pursuing claims which were not listed in a previous bankruptcy proceeding” (Moran Enters., Inc. v Hurst, 160 AD3d 638, 640 [2d Dept 2018], lv denied 32 NY3d 908 , rearg denied 32 NY3d 1195 ; see Popadyn v Clark Constr. & Prop. Maintenance Servs., Inc., 49 AD3d 1335, 1336 [4th Dept 2008]). Here, at the time NAC filed for bankruptcy, it failed to list a potential legal malpractice claim against JB as an asset and obtained a bankruptcy discharge. We conclude that “[t]he failure of . . . [NAC] to disclose a cause of action as an asset in a prior bankruptcy proceeding, the existence of which [NAC] knew or should have known existed at the time, deprive[s] [NAC] of the legal capacity to sue subsequently on that cause of action” (Green v Associated Med. Professionals of NY, PLLC, 111 AD3d 1430, 1432 [4th Dept 2013] [internal quotation marks omitted]). Contrary to the court’s determination, however, JB failed to establish that the doctrine of judicial estoppel applies with respect to NACH or Alf, because JB failed to establish as a matter of law that NACH or Alf, as non-debtors, were in privity with NAC (see In re Avaya Inc., 573 BR 93, 103-104 [SD NY 2017]).
Nonetheless, with respect to appeal No. 3, we conclude that JB is entitled to dismissal of the professional negligence/legal malpractice cause of action against it, insofar as asserted by NACH and Alf, for failure to state a cause of action (see CPLR 3211 [a] ). Plaintiffs’ complaint does not allege the existence of an attorney-client relationship between JB and NACH or Alf (see Keness v Feldman, Kramer & Monaco, P.C., 105 AD3d 812, 813 [2d Dept 2013]) and, instead, alleges only that JB gave negligent advice to NAC. While NACH and Alf submitted an affidavit of Alf attempting to remedy that deficiency, the affidavit does not specifically address JB’s representation of NACH or Alf in the matter giving rise to this lawsuit (cf. Leon v Martinez, 84 NY2d 83, 87-88 ). In light of our determination, we do not reach the issue whether JB provided documentary evidence that ” ‘utterly refute[d] [NACH’s and Alf’s] factual allegations, conclusively establishing a defense as a matter of law’ ” (Matter of Mixon v Wickett, 196 AD3d 1094, 1095 [4th Dept 2021], quoting Goshen, 98 NY2d at 326).”