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Industry: Real Estate

Commercial Division Rejects Third-Party Claim as Derivative in Trusts’ Suit Concerning Upper West Side Beaux-Arts Building

Asserting a claim on behalf of a trust in the Commercial Division can be risky, as the party asserting the claim must establish that the claimed injury is independent of any injury to the trust, and that they are therefore not simply bringing a derivative claim.  Recently, in 1993 Trust of Joan Cohen v. Baum, No. 150058/2015, 2017 NY Slip Op 30894(U), 2017 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 1667 (May 2).  Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich dismissed as derivative a third-party claim brought by a former trustee of two trusts against an individual who allegedly provided deficient tax advice to the trusts.  The court ruled that the former trustee was owed no duty by the third-party defendant individually and could no longer prosecute claims that belonged to the trusts.  Justice Kornreich also rejected the former trustee’s contribution claim against the tax adviser and another entity, explaining that those entities’ alleged wrongdoing was unrelated to the former trustee’s alleged wrongdoing, and thus did not make them subject to liability to the plaintiff for damages for the same injury.[1]

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Agreeing to Agree: Commercial Division Rules Twice that Term Sheets Were Not Binding Agreements

In two recent decisions, Justices Charles E. Ramos and Saliann Scarpulla of the New York Commercial Division ruled that term sheets were not binding agreements. Keitel v. E*Trade Fin. Corp., No. 652220/2015, 2017 BL 131532 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Apr. 17, 2017); JTS Trading Ltd. v. Trinity White City Ventures Ltd., No. 651936/2015, 2017 BL 131820 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Apr. 17, 2017). These cases serve as reminders to contracting parties to use unequivocal terms to reflect the creation of binding obligations when memorializing their agreements.

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Family Feud: Commercial Division Dissolves LLC Owned by Quarrelling Brothers

Justice Timothy J. Dufficy in the Queens County Commercial Division recently entered an order dissolving a limited liability company owned by two brothers whose disagreements regarding the management of the LLC culminated in a physical altercation.  Matter of Dissolution of 47th Road LLC, No. 705060/16, 2017 BL 49187 (Sup. Ct. Feb. 16, 2017).  The court applied an exception to the general rule that disputes between members are insufficient to warrant judicial dissolution, and found that the antagonism between the brothers made it impracticable for the business to carry on.

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Court of Appeals Grants Leave to Appeal in Partnership Dissolution Case

On January 10, 2016, the New York Court of Appeals decided to hear a case that has significant consequence in the field of partnership dissolution.  The case, Congel v. Malfitano, concerns the allegedly wrongful dissolution of a shopping mall partnership under Partnership Law § 69.  In 2016, Justice Thomas A. Dickerson, writing for a unanimous Second Department panel, held that a former partner’s unilateral notice of dissolution was wrongful because under Partnership Law § 69(2)(1)(b) the partnership was not “at-will” given that the written agreement contained a “definite term.”  The Second Department also ruled that it is appropriate to apply minority and goodwill discounts in determining the value of a defendant’s interest in a partnership.  Finally, the Second Department concluded that an award of attorney’s fees was proper because the expenditures are only incurred because of the former partner’s wrongful conduct.   

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LLC Operating Agreement Does Not Prevent Freeze-Out Merger

On October 24, 2016, Justice Charles E. Ramos of the New York Commercial Division denied a motion by minority members of a limited liability company (“LLC”) to enjoin a freeze-out merger that would cash out the minority members’ interests.  Huang v. N. Star Mgmt. LLC, 652357/2016, 2016 NY Slip Op 32194(U), at *4 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Oct. 24, 2016).  The court rejected the minority members’ argument that the majority members had violated the LLC’s operating agreement by transferring their membership interests to another LLC to effect the merger.

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Commercial Division Finds Restrictive Covenant Acceptable and Rejects Unpled Partnership Theory

On October 4, 2016, Justice Singh issued an order denying a defendant’s motion to dismiss a claim for breach of a restrictive covenant, finding that the covenant serves an acceptable purpose.  See Tarro v. McOsker, No. 653880/15, slip. op. (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Oct. 4, 2016).   The court also ruled that while it could not resolve a breach of fiduciary duty claim on a motion to dismiss, it would not entertain a new theory of duty that a plaintiff did not plead in his complaint.

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