The following papers were read and considered on the motion by claimant’s
attorney to withdraw as counsel pursuant to CPLR 321 (b) (2) and for other
relief: Notice of Motion, dated January 11, 2000 and filed January 13, 2000;
Affirmation of Katina S. Goldman, dated January 11, 2000 and filed January 13,
2000, with annexed Exhibits A-E; and Affirmation of Paula Pavlides, dated
January 19, 2000 and filed January 24, 2000.
Claimant JOAN EASTMOND (“claimant”) was granted permission to file
a late claim for personal injuries allegedly sustained when she fell in the
6th-floor shower area of the East Building located on defendant City University
of New York’s Brookdale campus (see, Affirmation of Katina S.
Goldman, dated January 11, 2000 and filed January 13, 2000 [“Goldman
Aff.”], Exhibit A). Claimant’s counsel (“counsel”) now
seeks to withdraw from representation pursuant to CPLR 321 (b) (2) because of
claimant’s failure to cooperate in the prosecution of this claim. Counsel
also seeks a stay in this action for 60 days so that claimant may retain new
representation if she so chooses; and an order granting costs and disbursements
and fixing an attorney’s lien and/or granting quantum meruit in
counsel’s favor as against any new representation claimant may
This motion, returnable on February 9, 2000, was served by mail upon claimant
and upon the attorney for defendants on January 11, 2000 (see, Goldman
Aff., Exhibit E). Claimant has not responded to the motion and defendants take
no position on it (see, Affirmation of Paula Pavlides, dated January 19,
2000 and filed January 24, 2000).
Counsel indicates that discovery is complete and the claim is ready for trial,
but that claimant has failed to maintain contact with counsel’s office
since July 1999. Counsel has persistently endeavored to contact claimant both
at home and at her place of employment, having gone so far as to send an
investigator to claimant’s residence and to confirm claimant’s
address via the records of the United States Post Office.
Although a client may discharge an attorney without cause at any time in the
relationship, there must be a showing of good cause and reasonable notice before
an attorney will be permitted to terminate the attorney-client relationship
(see, People v Woods, 117 Misc 2d 1, 2). What constitutes good cause is
not an objective determination, but rather lies within the sound discretion of
the trial court (see, People v Salquerro, 107 Misc 2d 155). When a
client’s conduct renders it unreasonably difficult for a lawyer to carry
out representation correctly, courts have granted the lawyer permission to
withdraw as attorney of record (see, Valente v Seiden, 244 AD2d 799;
Cashdan v Cashdan, 243 AD2d 598; Damore v Helmsley, 157 AD2d 518;
People v Woods, 117 Misc 2d 1, supra; Dones v State of New
York, Ct Cl, unreported decision and order dated Feb. 28, 2000, Read, P.J.,
Claim No. 95547, Motion No. M-60070 [claimants’ attorney may withdraw when
claimants’ failure to communicate with their attorney rendered it
impossible for the attorney to prosecute the claim]; see also, Code of
Professional Responsibility DR 2-110[C][d] [22 NYCRR
Here, counsel has made repeated and earnest efforts to communicate with
claimant. Moreover, counsel has satisfied the requirement of reasonable notice
by mailing the motion papers to claimant’s last known address. Counsel
has not, however, provided the Court with a copy of claimant’s retainer
agreement or any indication as to the claimed value of services rendered.
Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that counsel has made a showing of good
cause and reasonable notice; therefore, the Court grants counsel’s motion
to the extent that counsel is directed to serve a filed copy of this decision
and order upon claimant by certified mail, return receipt requested, and also by
regular mail; and to file an affidavit of such service, with the returned
receipt attached, with the Clerk of the Court. Upon the Clerk’s receipt
of this affidavit, counsel shall be relieved from representation of claimant.
No further proceedings shall take place with respect to this Claim until sixty
(60) days after the clerk’s receipt of this affidavit.
Counsel’s request for an order fixing an attorney’s lien or other
relief is denied without prejudice to whatever rights to compensation counsel
may have pursuant to section 475 of the Judiciary Law or otherwise.