I forgot to post this old subpoena decision, but it reminded me to post two recent decisions

Hart v Kinney Drugs, Inc., 67 AD3d 1154 (App. Div., 3rd, 2009)

In 2007, after relations between the parties had deteriorated and the tenant brought an action against two of the landlords' principals, the landlords commenced this action alleging that, among other things, the tenant had breached the parties' agreements by failing to pay percentage rents for the three stores. The tenant answered that the memorandum had terminated its obligation to pay percentage rents for those stores and served a subpoena for the records of the landlords' bank. When the landlords moved to quash the subpoena, the tenant cross-moved for summary judgment dismissing the cause of action.

Finding the memorandum to be ambiguous as to whether the tenant was obligated to pay percentage rents for the three stores, Supreme Court denied the tenant's cross motion and partially denied the landlords' motion to quash by greatly narrowing the scope of the tenant's subpoena. The landlords then moved to renew the motion to quash the subpoena in its entirety and attempted to present a further "Global Lease Agreement" in support of its position. That motion also was denied. The landlords now appeal from Supreme Court's orders, contending that the memorandum is not ambiguous since it is silent as to percentage rents for the three stores and, therefore, the lease terms regarding percentage rents remain unchanged. The landlords argue that, in the absence of any ambiguity, the information sought by the tenant's subpoena is extrinsic evidence that cannot be considered in construing the memorandum.

There can be no real dispute that the tenant's subpoena seeks extrinsic evidence. Inasmuch as extrinsic evidence of the parties' intent may be considered only if their agreement is ambiguous (see Greenfield v Philles Records, 98 NY2d 562, 569 [2002]; R/S Assoc. v New York Job Dev. Auth., 98 NY2d 29, 33 [2002]), the landlords' motion to quash necessarily depends upon whether the memorandum is ambiguous. It is well settled that "[w]hether or not a writing is ambiguous is a question of law to be resolved by the courts" (W.W.W. Assoc. v Giancontieri, 77 NY2d 157, 162 [1990]). In addition, while "silence does not equate to contractual ambiguity" (Greenfield v Philles Records, 98 NY2d at 573; see Reiss v Financial Performance Corp., 97 NY2d 195, 199 [2001]), an omission as to a material issue can create an ambiguity and allow the use of extrinsic evidence where the context within the document's four corners suggests that the parties intended a result not expressly stated (see Louis Dreyfus Energy Corp. v MG Ref. & Mktg., Inc., 2 NY3d 495, 500 [2004]; Barrow v Lawrence United Corp., 146 AD2d 15, 18-19 [1989]).

***

Inasmuch as the memorandum can be read as providing either a new, increased single rent term that replaced the prior base and percentage rents for the three stores, as the tenant claims, or new, increased base rents in addition to the existing percentage rents, as the landlords claim, it is ambiguous. In view of the questions raised by the memorandum's inconsistent treatment of these two groups of stores, unexplained within its four corners, Supreme Court properly determined that extrinsic evidence is needed to determine the parties' intent in executing it (see Louis Dreyfus Energy Corp. v MG Ref. & Mktg., Inc., 2 NY3d at 500; Belknap v Witter & Co., 61 NY2d 802, 804 [1984], affg 92 AD2d 515 [1983]; State of New York v Industrial Site Servs., Inc., 52 AD3d 1153, 1156 [2008]; Barrow v Lawrence United Corp., 146 AD2d at 18).

Given that ruling, Supreme Court also did not abuse its discretion in permitting disclosure of the landlords' records held by a nonparty to the extent that they could reveal the parties' intent in executing the memorandum. The tenant sufficiently demonstrated that the information which it sought was material and necessary. Further, the court carefully limited the scope of disclosure to shield confidential financial information, making it unnecessary for the tenant to show that the information is indispensable (see generally Allen v Crowell-Collier Publ. Co., 21 NY2d 403, 406-407 [1968]; Jordan v Blue Circle Atl., 296 AD2d 752, 752-753 [2002]; cf. Saratoga Harness Racing v Roemer, 274 AD2d 887, 889 [2000]).

Finally, in light of the landlords' failure to adequately explain the omission of the Global Lease Agreement from their submission on the parties' initial motions, Supreme Court did not abuse its discretion by denying the motion to renew (see Matter of Mouawad, 61 AD3d 1169, 1169-1170 [2009]; Kahn v Levy, 52 AD3d 928, 929 [2008]).

Almost on topic is a more recent decision: Gitlin v Chirinkin, 2010 NY Slip Op 01920 (App. Div., 2nd, 2010)

The Supreme Court did not improvidently exercise its discretion in denying that branch of the appellants' motion which was to compel the plaintiff to disclose his tax returns and bank records. The appellants failed to demonstrate that any information in the tax returns was indispensable to their defense or counterclaim and could not be obtained from other sources (see Pugliese v Mondello, 57 AD3d 637; Latture v Smith, 304 AD2d 534, 536; see also Banigan v Hill, 57 AD3d 463; Benfeld v Fleming Props., LLC, 44 AD3d 599). Moreover, the appellants failed to demonstrate that the plaintiff's bank records were material and necessary to their defense or counterclaim (see CPLR 3101[a]; Auerbach v Klein, 30 AD3d 451).

The plaintiff sustained his burden of demonstrating that the appellants should be required to disclose their tax returns (see Kerman v Martin Friedman, C.P.A., P.C., 21 AD3d 997). In addition, the plaintiff also clearly demonstrated that the bank records he requested of the appellants were material and necessary to the pursuit of his claims that the defendants had defrauded him. Accordingly, the Supreme Court providently exercised its discretion in denying that branch of the appellants' motion which was for a protective order pursuant to CPLR 3103.

Tangentially related is Riccuiti v Consumer Prod. Servs., LLC, 2010 NY Slip Op 01947 (App. Div., 2nd, 2010)

Thereafter, the plaintiff moved, inter alia, for summary judgment on the issue of liability and pursuant to CPLR 3126 to strike the answer insofar as asserted on behalf of Kowalski, based upon Kowalski's failure to appear for a court-ordered deposition.

***

"Although actions should be resolved on the merits whenever possible, where the conduct of th
e resisting party is shown to be willful and contumacious, the striking of a pleading is warranted" (Savin v Brooklyn Mar. Park. Dev. Corp., 61 AD3d 954, 954). Here, the Supreme Court providently exercised its discretion in striking the answer insofar as asserted on behalf of Kowalski. The record reflects that the answer was interposed on behalf of both defendants, and that Kowalski did not raise any defenses based upon lack of personal jurisdiction. In opposition to that branch of the plaintiff's motion which was to strike the answer insofar as asserted on behalf of Kowalski, defense counsel represented that his office was unable to locate Kowalski and, therefore, could not produce him for a deposition. The mere fact that Kowalski may have been outside the State of New York, and had made himself unavailable, did not preclude the Supreme Court from striking the answer [*2]insofar as interposed by him for failure to appear at a court-ordered deposition (see Carabello v Luna, 49 AD3d 679, 680; Maignan v Nahar, 37 AD3d 557).

The bold is mine.

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