“Lack of Capacity to Sue” Defense Waived If Not Raised in Pleadings/Court Should Not Have Decided Summary Judgment Motion by Searching the Record and Ruling On Issues Not Raised by Anyone
In the context of a suit alleging conversion stemming from the handling of an estate, the Second Department determined the “lack of capacity to sue” defense had been waived because it was not raised by defendant in his pleadings. The court further determined Surrogate’s Court exceeded its powers when it went beyond the issues placed before it plaintiff’s summary judgment motion, searched the record and decided the motion in defendant’s favor on grounds not raised by anyone:
[The defendant] waived the defense of lack of capacity by failing to raise such defense in a pre-answer motion to dismiss or in his answer to the amended complaint in the action (see CPLR 3211[e]…).
… [O]n a motion for summary judgment, the court is limited to the issues or defenses that are the subject of the motion before the court … . “A motion for summary judgment on one claim or defense does not provide a basis for searching the record and granting summary judgment on an unrelated claim or defense” … .
The Surrogate’s Court improperly searched the record and awarded summary judgment to [defendant] dismissing objections 1(i) and 9. [Plaintiff] moved for summary judgment on these objections solely on the grounds that he established that [defendant] converted funds from the father’s estate and failed to account for funds that the estate owed to [plaintiff]. [Defendant] did not cross-move for summary judgment dismissing those objections on the basis of the statute of limitations, nor did he argue it in opposition. In view of the limited scope of [plaintiff’s] motion, it was not appropriate to search the record and award summary judgment to [defendant] dismissing these objections upon arguments that were not raised … . Matter of Ray C., 2015 NY Slip Op 04134, 2nd Dept 5-13-15