Coccia v. Liotti, 2012 NY Slip Op 08273: New York Appellate Court Affirms Summary Judgment for Attorney in Legal Malpractice Action

A New York appellate court has affirmed a summary judgment for an attorney in a legal malpractice case. In Coccia v. Liotti, a client retained an attorney to represent her in divorce proceedings. The attorney negotiated a settlement of the marital estate, which paid the client $1.6 million and provided additional support payments. The client, however, believed that the settlement was insufficient, based on information obtained from an accountant she had retained, who suggested that the client’s former husband was not reporting all of his earned income. She then filed an action against the attorney, alleging multiple counts, including a negligence count on the basis that he recommended settlement for an insufficient sum.

The attorney successfully moved for summary judgment, but that ruling was reversed on appeal. He then deposed the former husband and his accountant. The attorney made another motion for summary judgment on all counts, on the basis that the deposition testimony clarified any discrepancies about the husband’s income. The trial court denied the motion, relying on New York common law, which generally bars the filing of successive motions for summary judgment. The attorney then appealed.

The appellate court reversed, finding that the motion was not duplicative as to the legal malpractice claim because the deposition testimony constituted newly discovered evidence, and also ruled that the client could not prove that she had suffered any damages, as a matter of law. The court entered judgment in favor of the attorney on the malpractice claim only, and remanded the case for further proceedings on the remaining counts.

Decision: Coccia v. Liotti


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