Pioneer Bank v Teal, Becker & Chiaramonte, CPAs, P.C.
2022 NY Slip Op 22316 [77 Misc 3d 360] October 4, 2022
Platkin, J Supreme Court, Albany County doesn’t decide any motions to dismiss, other than to direct that the issue be decided on a full summary judgment motion. What is interesting is the discussion of the differences and procedures of dispositive motions.


CPLR 3211 (a) (7) allows a party to move for dismissal on the ground that “the pleading fails to state a cause of action.” Such a motion may be made “[a]t any time” (CPLR 3211 [e]).

On a motion to dismiss made pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a), including a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under CPLR 3211 (a) (7), “either party may submit any evidence that could properly be considered on a motion for summary judgment,” including documentary evidence and affidavits (CPLR 3211 [c]). “Whether or not issue has been joined, the court, after adequate notice to the parties, may treat the motion as a motion for summary judgment” (id.).

Here, defendants moved under “[CPLR] 3211(a) (7) and 3211(c)” (NYSCEF Doc No. 24), thus inviting conversion of their motion into one for summary judgment. However, the court has not converted the motion, and it will not do so. As defendants were advised at the January 2022 conference, if they wanted their motion treated as one for summary judgment, they needed to move for summary judgment. Accordingly, the court has before it an unconverted, post-answer motion for dismissal under CPLR 3211 (a) (7).

As Pioneer observes, the Appellate Division, Third Department recently summarized the principles governing determination of such a motion. As well-articulated by Presiding Justice Garry,

“[t]he grounds for dismissal under CPLR 3211 (a) (7) are . . . strictly limited; the court is not allowed to render a determination upon a thorough review of the relevant facts adduced by both parties, but rather is substantially more constrained in its review, examining only the plaintiff’s pleadings and affidavits” (Carr v Wegmans Food Mkts., Inc., 182 AD3d 667, 668 [3d Dept 2020]; see John R. Higgitt, CPLR 3211 [a] [7]: Demurrer or Merits-Testing Device?, 73 Alb L Rev 99, 109 [2009]).

“In contrast to a motion for summary judgment, a court resolving a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim cannot base the determination upon submissions by the defendant—{**77 Misc 3d at 364}without regard to how compelling claims made in such submissions may appear” (Carr, 182 AD3d at 668 [citations omitted]). “Unless the motion to dismiss is converted by the court to a motion for summary judgment, a motion to dismiss is not in a posture to be resolved as a matter of law” (id. at 669 [internal quotation marks, brackets and citations omitted]).

In so ruling, the Third Department relied on the Court of Appeals’ decision in Miglino v Bally Total Fitness of Greater N.Y., Inc. (20 NY3d 342 [2013]), which declined to dismiss a negligence action under CPLR 3211 (a) (7) based on the defendant’s affidavit. The Court of Appeals explained that the

“matter [came to it] on a motion to dismiss, not a motion for summary judgment. As a result, the case is not currently in a posture to be resolved as a matter of law on the basis of the parties’ affidavits, and [plaintiff] has at least pleaded a viable cause of action” (id. at 351).

The Court of Appeals further emphasized that CPLR 3211 (a) (7) limits a court “to an examination of the pleadings to determine whether they state a cause of action,” obliges the court to “accept facts alleged [in plaintiff’s complaint] as true and interpret them in the light most favorable to plaintiff,” and protects the plaintiff from “be[ing] penalized for failure to make an evidentiary showing in support of a complaint that states a claim on its face” (id.).

Contrary to defendants’ argument in reply, nothing in the Third Department’s decision in Zeppieri v Vinson (190 AD3d 1173 [3d Dept 2021]) alters the mode of analysis for CPLR 3211 (a) (7) motions articulated in Carr. The Third Department’s decision in Zeppieri rejected the argument [*4]that Carr “limit[ed] what may be considered as documentary evidence” (Zeppieri, 190 AD3d at 1175 n), but that discussion pertained to the branch of the dismissal motion brought under CPLR 3211 (a) (1) (see Carr, 182 AD3d at 668). Defendants’ motion is not made under CPLR 3211 (a) (1), and their time in which to raise “a defense . . . founded upon documentary evidence” under that provision expired with service of their answer (see CPLR 3211 [e]).

Nor did defendants move under CPLR 3211 (a) (5) to interpose the defense of the partial expiration of the statute of limitations, and their time in which to do so similarly has expired (see CPLR 3211 [e]). To be sure, defendants preserved the defense in their answer (see id.; see also answer ¶ 156), {**77 Misc 3d at 365}thereby affording them the opportunity to move for summary judgment on the defense or present it at trial (see DeSanctis v Laudeman, 169 AD2d 1026, 1027 [3d Dept 1991] [“although we agree that the issue was properly preserved by defendant, . . . because responsive pleadings were served, defendant’s motion should have been brought pursuant to CPLR 3212 instead of pursuant to CPLR 3211”]; see also CPLR 3212 [c] [contemplating motions for summary judgment “on . . . the grounds enumerated in subdivision (a) or (b) of rule 3211”]).

The court therefore concludes that defendants’ fact-based causation defense and their partial challenge to the timeliness of Pioneer’s claims should, at this juncture, be the subject of a properly supported motion for summary judgment under CPLR 3212, not a motion for dismissal under CPLR 3211 (a) (7) accompanied by an invitation for conversion under CPLR 3211 (c).

In reaching this conclusion, the court recognizes that the Court of Appeals left open the possibility that a defendant may obtain dismissal under CPLR 3211 (a) (7) through the submission of “conclusive” affidavits and evidence (see Rovello v Orofino Realty Co., 40 NY2d 633, 635-636 [1976] [“affidavits submitted by the defendant will seldom if ever warrant the relief (it) seeks unless too the affidavits establish conclusively that plaintiff has no cause of action”]), and the other Judicial Departments take a more expansive view of CPLR 3211 (a) (7) (see e.g. Doe v Intercontinental Hotels Group, PLC, 193 AD3d 410, 410 [1st Dept 2021]).

But this court is obliged to follow the Third Department’s recent precedent in Carr, which teaches that “a court resolving a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim cannot base the determination upon submissions by the defendant,” no matter “how compelling claims made in such submissions may appear” (182 AD3d at 668-669).

Moreover, there are sound reasons for requiring motions like the one made here by defendants to be brought under CPLR 3212. Defendants’ approach needlessly deprives the court of useful procedural tools associated with summary judgment motions, including the requirement that parties supply statements of material facts (see Rules of Commercial Div of Sup Ct [22 NYCRR] § 202.70 [g] [rule 19-a]; see also 22 NYCRR 202.8-g).

An evidence-based motion to dismiss under CPLR 3211 (a) (7) also injects needless uncertainty and delay into the motion{**77 Misc 3d at 366} practice,[FN1] and may allow litigants to evade the proscription [*5]against successive summary judgment motions (see Amill v Lawrence Ruben Co., Inc., 117 AD3d 433, 433 [1st Dept 2014]; see also CPLR 3211 [e] [“no more than one (3211) motion shall be permitted”]).

In sum, defendants do not challenge the legal sufficiency of Pioneer’s claim for accounting malpractice, and their unconverted, post-answer CPLR 3211 (a) (7) motion is not an appropriate procedural vehicle by which to interpose a fact-based causation defense or assert the partial expiration of the statute of limitations.

Based on the foregoing, defendants’ motion is denied, without regard to the substantive arguments sought to be made therein and without prejudice to the eventual filing of a proper motion for summary judgment under CPLR 3212.[FN2]

Email this postTweet this postLike this postShare this post on LinkedIn
Andrew Lavoott Bluestone

Andrew Lavoott Bluestone has been an attorney for 40 years, with a career that spans criminal prosecution, civil litigation and appellate litigation. Mr. Bluestone became an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County in 1978, entered private practice in 1984 and in 1989 opened…

Andrew Lavoott Bluestone has been an attorney for 40 years, with a career that spans criminal prosecution, civil litigation and appellate litigation. Mr. Bluestone became an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County in 1978, entered private practice in 1984 and in 1989 opened his private law office and took his first legal malpractice case.

Since 1989, Bluestone has become a leader in the New York Plaintiff’s Legal Malpractice bar, handling a wide array of plaintiff’s legal malpractice cases arising from catastrophic personal injury, contracts, patents, commercial litigation, securities, matrimonial and custody issues, medical malpractice, insurance, product liability, real estate, landlord-tenant, foreclosures and has defended attorneys in a limited number of legal malpractice cases.

Bluestone also took an academic role in field, publishing the New York Attorney Malpractice Report from 2002-2004.  He started the “New York Attorney Malpractice Blog” in 2004, where he has published more than 4500 entries.

Mr. Bluestone has written 38 scholarly peer-reviewed articles concerning legal malpractice, many in the Outside Counsel column of the New York Law Journal. He has appeared as an Expert witness in multiple legal malpractice litigations.

Mr. Bluestone is an adjunct professor of law at St. John’s University College of Law, teaching Legal Malpractice.  Mr. Bluestone has argued legal malpractice cases in the Second Circuit, in the New York State Court of Appeals, each of the four New York Appellate Divisions, in all four of  the U.S. District Courts of New York and in Supreme Courts all over the state.  He has also been admitted pro haec vice in the states of Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida and was formally admitted to the US District Court of Connecticut and to its Bankruptcy Court all for legal malpractice matters. He has been retained by U.S. Trustees in legal malpractice cases from Bankruptcy Courts, and has represented municipalities, insurance companies, hedge funds, communications companies and international manufacturing firms. Mr. Bluestone regularly lectures in CLEs on legal malpractice.

Based upon his professional experience Bluestone was named a Diplomate and was Board Certified by the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys in 2008 in Legal Malpractice. He remains Board Certified.  He was admitted to The Best Lawyers in America from 2012-2019.  He has been featured in Who’s Who in Law since 1993.

In the last years, Mr. Bluestone has been featured for two particularly noteworthy legal malpractice cases.  The first was a settlement of an $11.9 million dollar default legal malpractice case of Yeo v. Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman which was reported in the NYLJ on August 15, 2016. Most recently, Mr. Bluestone obtained a rare plaintiff’s verdict in a legal malpractice case on behalf of the City of White Plains v. Joseph Maria, reported in the NYLJ on February 14, 2017. It was the sole legal malpractice jury verdict in the State of New York for 2017.

Bluestone has been at the forefront of the development of legal malpractice principles and has contributed case law decisions, writing and lecturing which have been recognized by his peers.  He is regularly mentioned in academic writing, and his past cases are often cited in current legal malpractice decisions. He is recognized for his ample writings on Judiciary Law § 487, a 850 year old statute deriving from England which relates to attorney deceit.