Liberty Affordable Housing Inc. v. Maple Court Apartments

In this appeal, the Fourth Department examined whether the Court of Appeals decision in Rovello v. Orofino Reality Co., which held that under New York Civil Practice Law and Rules 3211(a)(7) “‘summary dismissal is appropriate . . . when the defendant’s evidentiary submissions establish conclusively that plaintiff has no cause of action,’” survived the Court of Appeals subsequent decision in Miglino v. Bally Total Fitness of Greater New York, Inc.

In 2006, the Plaintiff, Maple Court Apartments, contracted with the Defendant, Liberty Affordable Housing, Inc., for the sale of real property. The Plaintiff was unable to secure funding by the closing date, or by the December 31, 2007, extension to the closing date. In April 2009, the Defendant sent the Plaintiff a letter in which the Defendant made clear that the purchase agreement was terminated and that the Defendant would market the property to other buyers. Two years later, in 2011, the Plaintiff secured funding and made another offer on the property. In a September, 2011, letter to the Defendant, the Plaintiff indicated the need for a new purchase agreement. The Defendant rejected the Plaintiff’s offer and accepted a higher offer from a third party.

The Plaintiff then commenced a suit for specific performance on the original 2006 contract. The Defendant moved for dismissal under N.Y. C.P.L.R. 3211(a)(7), which authorizes a court to dismiss a complaint when the opposing party fails to state a cause of action. In order to show the 2006 purchase agreement was invalid and therefore the Plaintiff had no cause of action, the Defendant submitted the 2009 letter and the 2011 letter to the court. The trial court dismissed the Plaintiff’s suit, finding it was clear that the original 2006 purchase agreement was invalid. The Plaintiff then appealed, arguing “that Miglino fundamentally changed the parameters of 3211(a)(7) and effectively barred the consideration of any evidentiary submissions outside the four corners of the complaint.”

The Plaintiff’s argument was based on the language in Miglino where “the Court cited Rovello for the proposition that ‘3211(a)(7) . . . limits [courts] to an examination of the pleadings to determine whether they state a cause of action’” and therefore found “‘the case is not currently in a posture to be resolved as a matter of law on the basis of the parties’ affidavits.’” The Plaintiff argued that this language from Miglino prohibits a court from considering evidentiary submissions when ruling on a 3211(a)(7) motion.

The court held for the Defendant, finding that Miglino did not change Rovello, but simply applied its framework. The court reasoned that “Miglino was ‘not currently in a posture to be resolved as a matter of law on the basis of the parties’ affidavits’ because the evidentiary submissions were insufficiently conclusive, not because they were categorically inadmissible in the context of a 3211(a)(7) motion.” This reading of Miglino was in line with similar decisions in the First and Second Departments. Therefore, the court found it was proper for the supreme court to consider the documents the Defendant submitted in support of its motion to dismiss. Turning to the substantive question, the court found the Defendant’s evidentiary submissions conclusively showed the Plaintiff was not willing and able to perform its end of the contract by the contract’s closing date or a reasonable time afterward. Therefore, the Plaintiff had no cause of action for specific performance and the supreme court properly dismissed the suit under 3211(a)(7).

998 N.Y.S.2d 543 (4th Dep’t. 2015)

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