North Flatts LLC v Belkin Burden Goldman, LLP 2023 NY Slip Op 02954 Decided on June 01, 2023 Appellate Division, First Department very quickly affirms a denial of summary judgment on two grounds. One was a premature motion for summary judgment was improper and the second was that no expert opinion was offered in support of defendant’s argument.
“In this legal malpractice action, plaintiff alleges that defendant, in connection with its representation of plaintiff in the legalization of an interim multiple building for residential use, negligently failed to seek a time extension to achieve compliance with the safety and fire protection standards of article 7-B of the Multiple Dwelling Law, thereby prohibiting plaintiff from legally collecting rent from its tenants pending its receipt of a final residential certificate of occupancy (see Multiple Dwelling Law art 7-C). Defendant did not satisfy its prima facie burden of establishing its entitlement to summary judgment dismissing the complaint as a matter of law, as defendant failed to submit an expert opinion demonstrating that it did not perform below the ordinary reasonable skill and care possessed by an average member of the legal community (see Suppiah v Kalish, 76 AD3d 829, 832 [1st Dept 2010]). Defendant contends that it had timely filed an article 7-B compliance form on plaintiff’s behalf in reliance on the certification of plaintiff’s architect, and that the filing of that form prohibited it from seeking a time extension to achieve article 7-B compliance. However, it has not submitted an expert affidavit establishing that its reliance on the architect’s opinion was reasonable under the circumstances, or explaining how defendant was prohibited from withdrawing the filed form and seeking a time extension to comply with article 7-B. Moreover, absent an expert affidavit, defendant failed to establish prima facie that its alleged negligence in its the handling of the article 7-B compliance form was not a proximate cause of plaintiff’s losses (see id.).
In any event, the court properly denied the prediscovery motion as premature, given plaintiff’s showing that facts essential to justify opposition to defendant’s motion may lie within defendant’s exclusive knowledge or control (see CPLR 3212[f]; Lyons v New York City Economic Dev. Corp., 182 AD3d 499, 499-500 [1st Dept 2020]). In response to defendant’s claim that it was not aware of potential issues with the architect’s certification of compliance until the August 2021 conference, after the May 2021 deadline to apply for an extension had expired, plaintiff pointed out that its tenants had disputed the architect’s compliance opinion as early as January 2021. Discovery is necessary to shed light on when defendant knew of a potential problem with the filed article 7-B compliance form, and whether defendant could have timely withdrawn that form and sought a timely extension to achieve compliance.”