Wednesday, August 9, 2023

No Personal Jurisdiction

A law firm that sued for unpaid fees failed to establish personal jurisdiction over the defendant former clients, according to a decision of the New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department.

The plaintiff Cary Scott Goldinger, an attorney licensed to practice law in New York, and his law office, the plaintiff Law Office of Cary Scott Goldinger, P.C., with its principal place of business in New York, commenced this action against the defendants alleging, inter alia, that the defendants owed them legal fees. The plaintiffs alleged that they represented the defendants Sloan Fine Art, LLC (hereinafter Sloan), SFA Investing, Inc. (hereinafter SFA), and Barbara Marburger, an art dealer who was the sole and managing member of Sloan and SFA (hereinafter collectively the Marburger defendants), as well as the defendants Luba Deluca, Moisonzhnick Fine Art, LLC, and MFA, LLC (hereinafter collectively the MFA defendants), in an action commenced by a third party against the Marburger defendants and the MFA defendants in New Mexico, and allegedly represented the MFA defendants in a related action against the same third party in New York.

In response

The Marburger defendants moved pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(8) to dismiss the complaint insofar as asserted against them for lack of personal jurisdiction, contending, among other things, that the plaintiffs only represented the Marburger defendants in connection with the action commenced in New Mexico, that Barbara Marburger never traveled to New York to meet with the plaintiffs in connection with their alleged representation of the Marburger defendants, and that she never signed an engagement letter with the plaintiffs. In opposing the Marburger defendants’ motion, the plaintiffs submitted only an unsworn memorandum of law. The Supreme Court granted the Marburger defendants’ motion. The plaintiffs appealled.

And lost

The complaint alleged only that the plaintiffs represented the Marburger defendants in the New Mexico action, not in the New York action (see Bloomgarden v Lanza, 143 AD3d at 852). Further, the plaintiffs failed to allege that the Marburger defendants solicited the plaintiffs’ legal services (see Paterno v Laser Spine Inst., 24 NY3d at 377; Fanelli v Latman, 202 AD3d at 760; cf. Fischbarg v Doucet, 9 NY3d at 385). Thus, the plaintiffs failed to sufficiently allege that the Marburger defendants projected themselves into New York and purposefully availed themselves of the benefits and protections of New York’s laws governing lawyers (cf. Fischbarg v Doucet, 9 NY3d at 385). Moreover, the statement in Barbara Marburger’s affidavit that she occasionally traveled to New York to attend art fairs and to visit New Mexico clients who have homes in New York City did not support a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction, as there was no showing of an articulable nexus or substantial relationship between those activities and the causes of action asserted by the plaintiffs against the Marburger defendants.

Dan's Papers has an interesting profile of the plaintiff. (Mike Frisch)

Billable Hours, Clients | Permalink


Post a comment