Law School Case Brief
Leon v. Martinez - 84 N.Y.2d 83, 614 N.Y.S.2d 972, 638 N.E.2d 511 (1994)
On a motion to dismiss pursuant to N.Y. C.P.L.R. 3211, the pleading is to be afforded a liberal construction. The court accepts the facts as alleged in the complaint as true, accords plaintiffs the benefit of every possible favorable inference, and determines only whether the facts as alleged fit within any cognizable legal theory.
Defendant client assigned to plaintiff assignees a portion of the settlement proceeds he received in a personal injury lawsuit. After defendant attorney received the settlement proceeds, he disbursed all the funds to defendant client. Plaintiffs never received any of the funds as promised. Plaintiffs sued defendants, client, attorney, and law firm, for breach of contract. The trial court granted defendant attorney and defendant law firm's N.Y. C.P.L.R. 3211(a)(1) motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the Second Judicial Department (New York) reversed the grant of defendants' N.Y. C.P.L.R. 3211(a)(1) motion to dismiss plaintiff assignees' claim of breach of contract. Defendants attorney and law firm sought further appellate review.
Did plaintiff assignees' complaint fail to state a cause of action that would merit outright dismissal?
The appellate court affirmed. When reviewing a 3211(a)(1) motion, the court accepted the facts as alleged in the complaint as true, accorded plaintiffs the benefit of every possible favorable inference, and determined only whether the facts as alleged fit within any cognizable legal theory. Further, the court was free to consider affidavits submitted by plaintiffs to remedy any defects in the complaint. Here, plaintiffs' complaint and supporting affidavit adequately alleged that the document, which was prepared by defendant attorney, was intended by all the parties to effectuate an assignment.
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