Justice Carol Robinson Edmead
The will of plaintiff’s aunt (‘decedent”), who died in 2013, disinherited decedent’s sister, plaintiff’s mother, and plaintiff, leaving virtually all of her estate to the Art Students League of New York, a non-profit charitable organization. After the executor, submitted the will to probate, decedent’s sister objected. Defendant represented the executor in the ensuing will contest and plaintiff, a licensed attorney, represented decedent’s sister. Decedent’s sister then alleged that decedent lacked testamentary capacity, and that the will was the product of undue influence by defendant, a witness to the will’s drafting. Plaintiff contended that defendants made five defamatory statements throughout the underlying litigation. The court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint as to certain statements. The court noted that defendant’s questions during the deposition of decedent’s sister (“Do you know if [Plainitff] has any other clients other than you?” and “Do you know if [Plaintiff] has tried to hire any PR firms to smear [Defendant?"]) are not susceptible to a defamatory meaning. The court added that defendant’s statement to plaintiff that “[he] basically extorted the witness” was non-actionable opinion.
The will of plaintiff’s aunt (‘decedent”), who died in 2013, disinherited decedent’s sister, plaintiff’s mother, and plaintiff, leaving virtually all of her estate to the Art Students League of