June 9, 2009
Fee Suit Dismissed
A trial court order denying dismissal of a law firm's suit for unpaid fees was reversed by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department. The firm had sued an individual defendant along with the entity client:
Accepting as true the facts pleaded by plaintiff and according plaintiff the benefit of every favorable inference to be drawn from those facts, plaintiff failed to state a cause of action for quantum meruit. To state such a cause of action, plaintiff must allege (1) the performance of services in good faith, (2) the acceptance of the services by the person to whom they are rendered, (3) an expectation of compensation therefor, and (4) the reasonable value of the services. Here, there are simply no allegations supporting the last three elements as the claim relates to Carucci. Notably, plaintiff offered no allegations that (1) Carucci accepted services from plaintiff, (2) plaintiff had a reasonable expectation of compensation from Carucci, or (3) the reasonable value of the services performed for which Carucci was responsible. Nor did plaintiff allege facts from which any of these elements reasonably can be inferred. With respect to the latter element, plaintiff alleged that Carucci and Seasons owe plaintiff $57,632.04; plaintiff did not differentiate the amounts allegedly owed by Carucci for the services plaintiff claims it performed for him, on the one hand, and the amounts owed by Seasons for the services plaintiff performed for it. Plaintiff's failure to differentiate the amounts owed by Carucci and Seasons is all the more telling because plaintiff does not claim that Carucci is liable for Season's legal fees; plaintiff alleges that Carucci is liable for legal fees for services plaintiff allegedly performed for him. For these reasons, that aspect of Carucci's motion seeking dismissal of the complaint under CPLR 3211(a)(7) should have been granted.
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