Mar 29th, 2016

FKB’s Andrew S. Kowlowitz and Bain R. Loucks obtain dismissal of defamation claims asserted against law firm

The defamation claim arose from a Law Firm’s representation of a creditor in a foreclosure action against the owner of a partially developed hotel in lower Manhattan. Following commencement of the foreclosure action, the owner filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the Southern District of New York. The litigation was highly contentious, with the owner threatening to kill or harm members of the creditor and the Law Firm, and threatening to sexually assault one of the partners of the Law Firm. The owner also made threats against the property subject to the litigation. In pleadings submitted to the state court as well as the bankruptcy court, the Law Firm detailed the threats made by the owner.

The owner then later filed a lawsuit against the Law Firm claiming that the statements made in court filings concerning the owner’s conduct were defamatory, and caused him to sustain damages. On behalf of the Law Firm, FKB filed a pre-discovery, pre-Answer motion to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to CPLR 3211, arguing that statements made in the course of legal proceedings were protected by an absolute privilege. FKB argued that the statements asserted in this instance were pertinent to the litigation, as they detailed the misconduct of the owner during the course of the underlying foreclosure action.

On March 29, 2016, Justice Charles Ramos (New York County Supreme Court, Commercial Division) heard oral argument on the motion. Following oral argument, he granted the motion from the bench, dismissing the Complaint with prejudice.

If you have any questions about this decision, or the defense of attorneys in general, please contact Andrew S. Kowlowitz or Bain R. Loucks.