Satterlee Stephens Burke & Burke LLP v. Coney on the Park LLC
NEW YORK COUNTY
Justice Joan Madden
Law firm Satterlee Stephens sought to recover unpaid legal fees and expenses for services it rendered to various defendants in employment and real estate matters. A non-party engaged Satterlee to represent certain entities in an unrelated action then pending in Kings County. As permitted in the retainer agreement, Satterlee represented Atlantic Court and others as defendants and/or third-party plaintiffs in the Kings County action. Satterlee ceased representing the entities, and a judgment was entered against Atlantic, which now asserted a counterclaim against Satterlee for legal malpractice on the ground it improperly undertook Atlantic's representation in the Kings County action, then improperly withdrew as counsel without a court order or replacement counsel. Satterlee moved for an order dismissing Atlantic's counterclaim, alleging it could not be held liable to a former client for events occurring after its discharge from representation and that Atlantic was collaterally estopped from re-litigating the issue of its discharge. The court dismissed Atlantic's counterclaim, holding that as Satterlee was not Atlantic's counsel when it defaulted in the Kings County action, it could not be held liable for events that occurred after its discharge.