Justice Donna Mills

Law firm Gallet, Dreyer & Berkey (GDB) sued Basile for unpaid legal fees incurred in their representation of him in an underlying Surrogate’s Court action. Basile and his wife, Holm, commenced a third-party action against GDB, and law firm Hoffman and Pollack (H&P) for legal malpractice. GDB and H&P moved for dismissal. The complaint alleged that, in hindsight, settlement of the underlying surrogate’s court action constituted malpractice. GDB was retained to represent Basile and H&P represented Holm, yet Basile claimed H&P was his counsel by virtue of a "joint representation" of Holm and Basile by both GDB and H&P. Basile annexed emails purporting to show H&P established a relationship in privity or near-privity to support his malpractice claim. The court stated in light of the fact Basile and Holm were separately represented by counsel, any justifiable reliance on the alleged negligent misrepresentation could only be directed at their own retained counsel. As Holm and Basile clearly had separate counsel in the underlying litigation, they could not argue they were in privity or near-privity with each others’ lawyers, despite both firms working closely together. Thus, Holm’s complaint against GDB and Basile’s complaint against H&P was dismissed.