In Julio Chicas v. Christopher J. Cassar, et al, No. 2023 NY Slip Op 00202, Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Second Department, the plaintiff sued for malpractice claiming that the lawyer defendants failed to sue a tortfeasor. The case was dismissed at the trial level, but the plaintiff successfully appealed. The reasoning:
Here, the defendants failed to establish, prima facie, that the plaintiff had no actual or ascertainable damages. “The defendant must affirmatively demonstrate the absence of one of the elements of legal malpractice” (EDJ Realty, Inc. v Siegel, 202 AD3d 1059, 1060). The complaint alleged that the damages included the failure to pursue SUM benefits, as well as the failure to pursue recovery against the alleged tortfeasor. Since it was alleged herein, inter alia, that the defendants’ legal malpractice prevented the plaintiff from obtaining a judgment against the alleged tortfeasor, the defendants had the burden of affirmatively demonstrating that the plaintiff would not have prevailed against the alleged tortfeasor or that the alleged tortfeasor did not have personal assets such that his motorist insurance policy limit that was recovered in the amount of $50,000, was the maximum judgment that could have been obtained from him (see id. at 1060). The defendants failed to do so. Accordingly, the Supreme Court should have denied that branch of the defendants’ motion which was for summary judgment dismissing the complaint.
Comment: the court is saying there may have been a possible recovery against the tortfeasor who was not pursued. This may or may not be true. The litigation is in its early stages and we cannot predict whether or not the plaintiff can prove this claim. (If the possible tortfeasor was bankrupt or insolvent, there is no possible recovery.).