Thursday, October 9, 2014

WHAT IS DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE UNDER CPLR 3211(a)(1)

Attias v Costiera, 2014 NY Slip Op 06163, Decided on September 17, 2014, Appellate Division, Second Department:

""On a pre-answer motion to dismiss pursuant to CPLR 3211, the pleading is to be afforded a liberal construction and the plaintiff's allegations are accepted as true and accorded the benefit of every possible favorable inference" (Granada Condominium III Assn. v Palomino, 78 AD3d 996, 996; see Leon v Martinez, 84 NY2d 83, 87). A motion pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(1) to dismiss a complaint on the ground that a defense is founded on documentary evidence "may be [*2]appropriately granted only where the documentary evidence utterly refutes [the] plaintiff's factual allegations, conclusively establishing a defense as a matter of law" (Goshen v Mutual Life Ins. Co. of N.Y., 98 NY2d 314, 326; see Rodolico v Rubin & Licatesi, P.C., 114 AD3d 923, 924-925). "The evidence submitted in support of such motion must be documentary or the motion must be denied" (Cives Corp. v George A. Fuller Co., Inc., 97 AD3d 713, 714 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Fontanetta v John Doe 1, 73 AD3d 78, 84; see also David D. Siegel, Practice Commentaries, McKinney's Cons Laws of NY, Book 7B, CPLR C 3211:10, at 21-23).

In order for evidence submitted in support of a CPLR 3211(a)(1) motion to qualify as "documentary evidence," it must be "unambiguous, authentic, and undeniable" (Granada Condominium III Assn. v Palomino, 78 AD3d 996, 996-997 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Cives Corp. v George A. Fuller Co., Inc., 97 AD3d at 714). "[J]udicial records, as well as documents reflecting out-of-court transactions such as mortgages, deeds, contracts, and any other papers, the contents of which are essentially undeniable, would qualify as documentary evidence in the proper case" (Fontanetta v John Doe 1, 73 AD3d at 84-85 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Cives Corp. v George A. Fuller Co., Inc., 97 AD3d at 714). At the same time, "[n]either affidavits, deposition testimony, nor letters are considered documentary evidence within the intendment of CPLR 3211(a)(1)" (Granada Condominium III Assn. v Palomino, 78 AD3d at 997 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Cives Corp. v George A. Fuller Co., Inc., 97 AD3d at 714; Suchmacher v Manana Grocery, 73 AD3d 1017, 1017).

Here, the affidavits submitted by the defendants, their attorney's affirmation, and the correspondence that was submitted in support of the defendants' motion did not constitute documentary evidence within the meaning of CPLR 3211(a)(1), and should not have been relied upon by the Supreme Court in directing the dismissal of the complaint pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(1) (see Cives Corp. v George A. Fuller Co., Inc., 97 AD3d at 714; Granada Condominium III Assn. v Palomino, 78 AD3d at 997; Fontanetta v John Doe 1, 73 AD3d at 84-85). The only documentary evidence submitted in support of the defendants' motion was the contract of sale and the rider to the contract of sale. However, these submissions did not "utterly refute" the plaintiff's allegations or "conclusively establish[ ] a defense as a matter of law" (Goshen v Mutual Life Ins. Co. of N.Y., 98 NY2d at 326; see Rodolico v Rubin & Licatesi, P.C., 114 AD3d at 924-925; JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. v Balliraj, 113 AD3d 821, 821; Uzzle v Nunzie Ct. Homeowners Assn., Inc., 70 AD3d 928, 930). Accordingly, the Supreme Court erred in granting that branch of the defendants' motion which was to pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(1) to dismiss the complaint."

Thanks to email from David Gabay, Law Offices of David A. Gabay, PC

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