Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Recent Interpretations of the CPLR by New York Appellate Courts

Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Recent Interpretations of the CPLR by New York Appellate Courts

Article excerpt

To borrow an analogy from Charles Dickens, New York's Civil Practice Law and Rules CCPLR") might appropriately be described as the "tale of two faces." (1) Or perhaps the better allusion is to Robert Louis Stevenson's "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." (2) Certain provisions of the CPLR, as well as their interpretations by appellate courts, are forgiving and flexible. In fact, within its first four sections, the CPLR mandates a liberal construction of its provisions to "secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every civil judicial proceeding." (3) The CPLR also empowers the judiciary to correct mistakes, omissions, and extend deadlines. (4) On the other hand, there is no shortage of cases where the CPLR has been interpreted with exacting rigidity, leaving in their wake a host of unsuspecting practitioners and litigants procedurally foreclosed from substantive relief. Recent appellate decisions interpreting various CPLR provisions reflect this continuing dichotomy, although the trend appears to be towards the more flexible and liberal interpretation where the circumstances of a particular case permit such a result. The following is a review of several of those cases from 2009 and 2010, as well as other notable cases involving the interpretation or application of various provisions in the CPLR. (5)

I. THE CPLR AS INTERPRETED IN 2009 & 2010: MORE JEKYLL THAN HYDE

A. CPLR 5511--Who Is an "Aggrieved Party"?

Since this article is within a publication dedicated to New York Appeals, perhaps the best place to begin is with an appellate issue. CPLR 5511 states: "An aggrieved party or a person substituted for him may appeal from any appealable judgment or order except one entered upon the default of the aggrieved party." (6) Generally, determining if a party is "aggrieved" within the meaning of CPLR 5511 is a fairly straightforward analysis. If a party who asked for relief in the lower court received all the relief he or she requested, that party is not aggrieved. On the other hand, if a party asks for relief and that relief is denied, the party is aggrieved. Two recent cases, however, were not so straightforward, requiring the courts to interpret the meaning of "aggrieved party" in CPLR 5511.

In Adams v. Genie Industries, Inc., a products liability case, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded $500,000 in damages for total pain and suffering. (7) The trial court denied the defendant's motion to set aside the verdict, but granted the plaintiffs motion for an additur increasing the pain and suffering award to $1.25 million. (8) The defendant appealed and the Appellate Division affirmed. (9) The defendant then stipulated to the additur and the Appellate Division granted leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals. (10)

In the Court of Appeals, the defendant raised no issue concerning the additur, but argued that the evidence was insufficient to establish liability or, in the alternative, that a new trial should have been ordered. (11) Before considering the merits of the appeal, the Court of Appeals addressed the issue of whether the defendant had a right to take an appeal from the Appellate Division's order after having stipulated to the additur. (12) The plaintiff argued that the defendant did not have a right to appeal, relying on two prior Court of Appeals cases, Batavia Turf Farms v. County of Genesee and Whitfield v. City of New York. (13) In Batavia and Whitfield, the Court had held that a party that stipulated to a reduction in damages in lieu of a new trial foreclosed all further review of other issues. (14) The rationale underlying this result was that "the stipulation did not merely resolve an issue, but also fulfilled a condition for the existence of the order in question." (15)

In Adams, however, the Court of Appeals found that the rule in Batavia and Whitfield was not justified. Instead, the Court found "[i]t is unfair to bar a party from raising legitimate appellate issues simply because that party has made an unrelated agreement on the amount of damages. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.