THE CRITERIA FOR PIERCING THE CORPORATE VEIL IN THIS PERSONAL INJURY ACTION AGAINST A BAR OWNED AND OPERATED BY A LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY WERE NOT MET; THE OVER $2,000,000 JUDGMENT AGAINST THE SOLE MEMBER OF THE LLC REVERSED (SECOND DEPT).
The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court after a non-jury trial awarding plaintiff over $2,000,000, determined plaintiff was not entitled to pierce the corporate veil to hold defendant Traina, the sole member of defendant limited liability company (LLC), personally liable. Plaintiff brought a personal injury action against the bar owned and operated by the LLC and was awarded a default judgment:
Generally, a member of a limited liability company cannot personally be held liable for any debts, obligations or liabilities of the limited liability company, “whether arising in tort, contract or otherwise” (Limited Liability Company Law § 609[a]). The concept of piercing the corporate veil is an exception to this general rule, permitting, in certain circumstances, the imposition of personal liability on members for the obligations of the limited liability company … . ” … [G]enerally . . . piercing the corporate veil requires a showing that: (1) the owners exercised complete domination of the corporation [or LLC] in respect to the transaction attacked; and (2) that such domination was used to commit a fraud or wrong against the [party seeking to pierce the corporate veil] which resulted in [the party’s] injury” … . * * *
… [A]lthough Traina did not observe all corporate formalities, the evidence established that he ran a real business, with employees, customers, and vendors, and the petitioner presented no evidence that the LLC was undercapitalized or that Traina commingled the assets of the LLC with his own or used corporate funds for personal use … . … w[W]ile the petitioner demonstrated that Traina exercised complete domination and control over the LLC, he failed to show that Traina’s actions, including abandoning certain fixtures and equipment to his landlord, were for the purpose of leaving the LLC judgment proof or to perpetrate a wrong against the petitioner … . … [P]etitioner did not meet his burden of proof to establish that there was a basis to pierce the corporate veil … . Matter of DePetris v Traina, 2022 NY Slip Op 07232, Second Dept 12-21-22
Practice Point: The criteria for piercing the corporate veil in this personal injury action against a bar owned and operated by a limited liability company were not met. The over $2,000,000 judgment against the sole member was reversed.