Pleading Defamation and Fraud. CPLR R. 3016(a)(b)

Moreira-Brown v City of New York, 2010 NY Slip Op 02063 (App. Div., 1st, 2010)

In this action for defamation and emotional distress, the verified complaint alleges that on or about September 12, 1998, defendant Police Detective Raymond Rivera, acting as agent for his codefendants, made written and verbal defamatory statements that plaintiff "had committed rape and sexual assault and was being sought by the police for arrest and prosecution [for] rape and sexual assault." These words were not demarcated as a quotation in the complaint. Dismissing the complaint, the motion court held that plaintiff had not complied with CPLR 3016(a) because the complaint "does not set forth the particular words alleged to be defamatory."

While a complaint alleging defamation must allege the particular spoken or published words on which the claim is based, the words need not be set in quotation marks (see John Langenbacher Co. v Tolksdorf, 199 AD2d 64 [1993]). When construed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the complaint alleges that Detective Rivera specifically stated that plaintiff "had committed rape and sexual assault," and "was being sought by the police for arrest and [*2]prosecution" for those crimes. This allegation is sufficient to meet the requirements of CPLR 3016(a).

Colasacco v Robert E. Lawrence Real Estate, 68 AD3d 706 (App. Div., 2nd, 2009)

CPLR 3016 (b) provides, in relevant part, that "[w]here a cause of action or defense is based upon misrepresentation, fraud, mistake . . . the circumstances constituting the wrong shall be stated in detail." The specificity requirements are relaxed where it is alleged that the particular circumstances of the alleged fraud are peculiarly within the defendants' knowledge (see Pludeman v Northern Leasing Sys., Inc., 10 NY3d 486, 491-492 [2008]; Pericon v Ruck, 56 AD3d 635, 636 [2008]).

"The essential elements of a cause of action sounding in fraud are a misrepresentation or a material omission of fact which was false and known to be false by defendant, made for the purpose of inducing the other party to rely upon it, justifiable reliance of the other party on the misrepresentation or material omission, and injury" (Orlando v Kukielka, 40 AD3d 829, 831 [2007]; see Ross v DeLorenzo, 28 AD3d 631, 636 [2006]). Here, the complaint fails to allege the elements of fraud with sufficient specificity. In particular, the complaint fails to allege that DiCorato's alleged misrepresentations to the plaintiffs were known by the defendants to be false. Furthermore, it is clear from the face of the complaint that the plaintiffs' supposed reliance upon DiCorato's alleged misrepresentations concerning the location of the property's boundary lines was unreasonable as a matter of law (see Orlando v Kukielka, 40 AD3d at 831). There was no allegation in the complaint that the dimensions and boundary lines of the subject property were within the exclusive knowledge of the defendants. Indeed, the plaintiffs could easily have ascertained these facts through the use of ordinary means (see Esposito v Saxon Home Realty, 254 AD2d 451 [1998]; Bennett v Citicorp Mtge., Inc., 8 AD3d 1050 [2004]; Mosca v Kiner, 277 AD2d 937, 938 [2000]). Accordingly, the Supreme Court should have dismissed the fraud cause of action pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (7).

Similarly, the cause of action sounding, in effect, in negligent misrepresentation also fails to meet the specificity requirements of CPLR 3016 (b). Furthermore, in order to prevail on such a cause of action, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant had a duty to use reasonable care to impart correct information due to a special relationship between the parties, that the information was incorrect or false, and that the plaintiff reasonably relied upon the information (see Grammer v Turits, 271 AD2d 644, 645 [2000]). The complaint fails to allege that the defendants had a duty to the plaintiffs to impart correct information arising out of a special relationship between them. Moreover, as with the fraud cause of action, the complaint fails to allege circumstances under which the plaintiffs' reliance upon DiCorato's alleged misrepresentations could be considered reasonable or justifiable. Thus, the Supreme Court should also have dismissed the second cause of action pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (7).

The bold is mine.

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