Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Sum Uncertain Dooms Confessed Judgment For Legal Fees

The New York Appellate Division for the Third Judicial Department vacated a confessed judgment for legal fees

In early February 2013, the defendant executed a blank affidavit of confession of judgment in favor of the plaintiff for “unpaid attorney’s fees and expenses due on cases plaintiff referred to the defendant for continued prosecution as co-counsel to plaintiff’s law firm and in accordance with the terms of the letter agreement entered into between plaintiff and defendant dated January 24, 2013.” It is undisputed that at the time the affidavit was executed, neither the plaintiff nor the defendant knew the exact amount owed by the defendant to the plaintiff under the January 24, 2013, letter agreement.

Approximately one year later, still unable to secure the defendant’s cooperation in calculating the exact amount owed, the plaintiff unilaterally estimated the amount to be $207,474.92 filled in the previously executed affidavit of confession of judgment accordingly, and used that affidavit, as so modified, as the basis for obtaining a judgment by confession against the defendant in that amount, which was filed in the Nassau County Clerk’s Office on April 8, 2014.

In September 2016, nonparty Elena M. Perez, a junior judgment creditor of the defendant, moved to vacate the judgment by confession on the ground that the affidavit of confession of judgment failed to comply with the strict requirements of CPLR 3218. In an affidavit filed in support of the motion, the defendant averred that the affidavit of confession of judgment was executed in blank, and the sum confessed was inserted at a later time without his knowledge or consent. The plaintiff opposed the motion. The Supreme Court denied the motion, and Perez appeals.

The law

Here, it is undisputed that the affidavit of confession of judgment, at the time it was executed by the defendant, failed to state the sum for which judgment could be entered. It is also undisputed that the sum was unilaterally filled in months later by the plaintiff, based on calculations that are neither fully explained nor ascertainable from the evidence contained in the record. Under the circumstances, the affidavit did not meet the requirements of CPLR 3218(a)

(Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2019/03/the-new-york-appellate-division-for-the-third-judicial-department-in-early-february-2013-the-defendant-executed-a-blank-aff.html

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