McGlynn v Burns & Harris, Esq. 2024 NY Slip Op 00187 Decided on January 17, 2024
Appellate Division, Second Department illustrates the proposition that attorneys must try to prove all causes of an accident, even when one of them seems more important than the other. Attorneys also have to try to make sure there is insurance on the other side.
“In 2007, the plaintiff retained the defendant Burns & Harris, Esq. (hereinafter the B & H law firm), to represent him in the prosecution of an action to recover damages for personal injuries he allegedly sustained in March 2005 while working for United Parcel Service due to an allegedly defective condition on a loading dock in Brooklyn. The defendant Alison R. Keenan was the attorney assigned to handle the plaintiff’s case. The B & H law firm commenced two separate actions on the plaintiff’s behalf against alleged owners of the loading dock. The actions were consolidated (hereinafter the personal injury action), and a default judgment against all the defendants in the personal injury action was obtained, awarding the plaintiff the total sum of $255,914.50.
The plaintiff alleged that he was unable to collect the judgment because the insurance providers for the defendants in the personal injury action disclaimed coverage on the ground that timely notice of the claim was not provided. The plaintiff commenced this action against the B & H law firm and Keenan (hereinafter together the law firm defendants), among others, alleging, inter alia, legal malpractice for the failure to investigate and timely notify the applicable insurance carriers in the personal injury action.”
“Contrary to the Supreme Court’s determination, the law firm defendants failed to establish their prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against them. The law firm defendants’ submissions in support of their motion did not establish, prima facie, the absence of at least one element of the legal malpractice cause of action (see Burbige v Siben & Ferber, 152 AD3d 641, 642). “Under the doctrine of judicial estoppel, also known as estoppel against inconsistent positions, a party may not take a position in a legal proceeding that is contrary to a position he or she took in a prior proceeding, simply because his or her interests have changed” (Bihn v Connelly, 162 AD3d 626, 627; see Archer v Beach Car Serv., Inc., 180 AD3d 857, 861). Here, the plaintiff’s allegation that he was injured due to a defect in the loading dock was not necessarily contrary to the position taken in his workers’ compensation claim that he suffered injuries while moving heavy boxes on the loading dock. There can be more than one proximate cause of a plaintiff’s injuries (see Scurry v New York City Hous. Auth., 39 NY3d 443, 454; Turturro v City of New York, 28 NY3d 469, 483; Moe-Salley v Highbridge House Ogden, LLC, 214 AD3d 722, 722; Reyes v S. Nicolia & Sons Realty Corp., 212 AD3d 851, 852). Accordingly, the court should have denied the law firm defendants’ motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against them.”