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Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

A lawyer sues for unpaid legal fees. However, instead of suing the corporate client who hired him, he turns his attention to the family of companies (and some of its representatives) who were negotiating to buy the corporate client.  Complicating matters, the lawyer relied on a procedure called “summary judgment in lieu of a complaint”, a mechanism whereby a plaintiff short circuits a traditional trial and obtains an accelerated judgment.  This path is reserved for cases were the alleged debt is “an instrument for the payment of money only”, like a promissory note (an IOU) or a bounced check. The lawyer argued that the unpaid invoices fell into that category; the judge agreed, granting a judgment for the lawyer of almost $750,000. 

The Appellate Division First Department reversed, sending the case back to the trial court for a conventional trial.  The Appellate Division correctly held that “Plaintiff has failed to establish … that defendants, as are liable based on an account stated claim.”.  The short decision is proof that good things can come in small packages. Ginsberg v. J&J et al.  Our Newsletter analyzing the decision can be viewed HERE.

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