Breach of Contract Cause of Action Dismissed as Duplicative of Legal Malpractice Claim.
In the underlying matter, the plaintiff, a police officer employed by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), asserted two claims under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq.). The first claim arose out of an incident which allegedly occurred on September 15, 2000. The plaintiff alleged that during the course of her employment, a fellow employee negligently placed a battery charger atop a locker that fell on her head and injured her. The second claim arose out of an incident that allegedly occurred on January 12, 2002, at which time the plaintiff, while an MTA employee, was injured when an MTA golf cart she was patrolling in jerked violently, causing injuries to her neck.
The plaintiff consulted with and retained the defendants as her attorneys to prosecute her causes of action for injuries sustained on September 15, 2000, and January 12, 2002, under FELA.
On June 6, 2003, the defendants brought an action on behalf of the plaintiff, seeking a jury trial to adjudicate her FELA claims, which alleged personal injuries—including a back injury—due to negligence on the part of her employer.
The plaintiff claimed that the defendants deviated from the good and accepted standards of legal practice in that they negligently, carelessly, and unskillfully failed to adequately and appropriately prosecute her underlying lawsuit. The Federal District Court dismissed the plaintiff’s underlying complaint for failure to prosecute, and the Second Circuit upheld the dismissal.
The plaintiff commenced this action in Supreme Court, Nassau County against her former lawyers, alleging two causes of action, legal malpractice and breach of contract. In response to the defendant’s motion to dismiss the second cause of action—breach of contract—the court held, “[i]n this case, a review of Plaintiff’s Complaint demonstrates that Plaintiff’s second cause of action alleging breach of contract is duplicative as it clearly arises out of the same set of facts and requests the same damages as the malpractice cause of action. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s second cause of action against Defendants for breach of contract warrants dismissal.”
Legal Update for Lawyers’ Professional Liability – May 2022 is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent legal developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific situation or to create an attorney-client relationship. We would be pleased to provide such legal assistance as you require on these and other subjects when called upon. ATTORNEY ADVERTISING pursuant to New York RPC 7.1 Copyright © 2022 Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, all rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm. For reprints or inquiries, or if you wish to be removed from this mailing list, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.