Criteria for Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Cause of Action (Where Documentary Evidence Submitted) Explained—Criteria for Motion to Dismiss Based on Documentary Evidence Explained—Pleading Requirements for Legal Malpractice Explained
In finding the legal malpractice complaint properly survived motions to dismiss, the Second Department explained the criteria for a motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action where documentary evidence is submitted (question is whether plaintiff has a cause of action, not whether one has been stated, affidavits considered to remedy defects in complaint), the criteria for a motion to dismiss founded on documentary evidence (documents must utterly refute allegations in complaint), the elements of legal malpractice, and the adequacy of damages allegations in a legal malpractice complaint (cannot be conclusory or speculative but plaintiff not obligated to show it actually sustained damages) :
On a motion to dismiss pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7), the complaint is to be afforded a liberal construction, the facts alleged are presumed to be true, the plaintiff is afforded the benefit of every favorable inference, and the court is to determine only whether the facts as alleged fit within any cognizable legal theory (see CPLR 3026…). Where a party offers evidentiary proof on a motion pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7), “the criterion is whether the proponent of the pleading has a cause of action, not whether he [or she] has stated one” … . ” [A] court may freely consider affidavits submitted by the plaintiff to remedy any defects in the complaint'” … .
A motion to dismiss a complaint pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(1) may be granted only where the documentary evidence utterly refutes the plaintiff’s factual allegations, conclusively establishing a defense as a matter of law… .
To state a cause of action to recover damages for legal malpractice, a plaintiff must allege (1) that the attorney failed to exercise the care, skill, and diligence commonly possessed and exercised by a member of the legal profession, and (2) that such negligence was a proximate cause of the actual damages sustained … . A plaintiff must plead “actual[,] ascertainable damages” resulting from the attorney’s negligence … . Conclusory or speculative allegations of damages are insufficient… . However, “[a] plaintiff is not obligated to show, on a motion to dismiss, that it actually sustained damages. It need only plead allegations from which damages attributable to the defendant’s malpractice might be reasonably inferred” … . Randazzo v Nelson, 2015 NY Slip Op 04299, 2nd Dept 5-20-15