The plaintiff real estate development company sought damages in excess of $10.6M against the defendant-attorney for work done in connection with a 2006 real estate project. The plaintiff planned to build 40 condominium units in upper Manhattan at a location situated immediately next to a large New York City-owned and Department of Transportation (DOT) controlled retaining wall. Plaintiff claimed that the apartments would have been worth $26.7M (gross) and plaintiff claimed that $10.6M (net) represented its alleged “lost” profits caused by FKB’s attorney-client. Plaintiff claimed to have received “negligent advice” in connection with a NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) Stop Work Order, issued because of the partial demolition of the retaining wall located next to the premises, which advice plaintiff claimed, eventually resulted in the loss of the entire project.
On behalf of their attorney-client, FKB’s Andrew R. Jones and Rachel Aghassi argued that no negligent advice was given, and that if anything bad planning by the developer and government intervention was the real reason that the project was delayed and eventually lost. Mr. Jones and Ms. Aghassi also argued that the plaintiff’s “lost profit” claims were entirely speculative.
Over the course of 6 weeks, Mr. Jones and Ms. Aghassi cross examined multiple fact and expert witnesses that plaintiff had called to testify, including architects, building inspectors, attorneys, real estate appraisers, and the developers themselves. Mr. Jones and Ms. Aghassi then called multiple defense witness, including witnesses from the DOT, DOB, NYC Law Department, architects, engineers, attorneys, and other witnesses.
The jury returned a defense verdict within 1 hour of deliberation. The jury found that there was no departure from the reasonable attorney standard of care (Q1 on the verdict sheet) meaning that after hearing all the evidence, the jury did not believe FKB’s attorney-client did anything wrong. The jury later elaborated that had they continued down the verdict sheet, they would have also found that nothing the attorney “allegedly did” caused any damages, and that the claimed lost profits were entirely speculative especially given that construction had not yet begun and the timeline was set in the backdrop of the 2007-2008 real estate market collapse.
This was real vindication for FKB’s attorney-client who correctly maintained he did nothing wrong through the entire case beginning March 2009 and ultimately through the successful November-December 2014 jury trial.