Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wiener v. Lazard Freres & Co. case brief

Wiener v. Lazard Freres & Co. case brief summary
672 N.Y.S.2d 8 (1998)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Plaintiffs appealed from Supreme Court, New York County (New York), which dismissed plaintiffs' complaint alleging unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty, and unfair competition where defendant negotiated with mortgagee bank on behalf of plaintiffs concerning property plaintiffs sought to repurchase.

CASE FACTS
Plaintiffs sought to raise funds to retain ownership of commercial building after defaulting on mortgage. Defendant executed commitment letter with plaintiffs, stating they would provide financing for purchase or refinancing of mortgage in return for application fee. Defendant executive agreed to take over negotiations with mortgagee bank on behalf of plaintiffs but entered into relationship that resulted in another party acquiring the property. Plaintiff brought suit alleging unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty, and unfair competition. The trial court dismissed the complaint.

DISCUSSION

  • The court modified in part and affirmed in part. 
  • The court stated that claims for unjust enrichment and breach of fiduciary should not have been dismissed, because plaintiffs could claim they had bestowed a benefit--the application fee--on defendants and had not been adequately compensated, and because plaintiffs alleged they had placed confidence in defendant and had reasonably relied on defendant's superior expertise.
CONCLUSION
The court modified in part and affirmed in part, holding that plaintiffs' claims for unjust enrichment based on application fee and breach of fiduciary duty should not have been dismissed but that the claim for unfair competition was properly dismissed.

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