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In re Kassel

Supreme Court of New York, First Department

June 27, 2013

In re David Kassel, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
Citrin Cooperman and Co. LLC, Respondent-Respondent.

Thomas D. Shanahan, P.C., New York (Thomas D. Shanahan of counsel), for appellant.

Jaffe, Ross & Light LLP, New York (Lawrence Fechner of counsel), for respondent.

Gonzalez, P.J., Renwick, Manzanet-Daniels, Feinman, JJ.

Judgment, Supreme Court, New York County (Carol E. Huff, J.), entered January 11, 2013, which, to the extent appealed from, denied the petition to stay arbitration and dismissed the proceeding, unanimously affirmed, with costs.

Respondent Citrin Cooperman and Co. LLC, an accounting firm, demanded arbitration pursuant to the parties' "Engagement Letter, " to recover approximately $30, 000 in fees it claims petitioner owes for services provided by one of its employees as an expert witness in commercial litigation in which petitioner was involved. Petitioner refused to arbitrate and commenced this proceeding, based, primarily, on allegations that his former counsel acted improperly by, among other things, ignoring petitioner's request to terminate respondent's services. That petitioner may have a claim against his former counsel does not warrant a stay of the arbitration proceeding (see Silverman v Benmor Coats, Inc., 61 N.Y.2d 299, 302-303 [1984]).

We have considered respondent's request for attorneys' fees in connection with this appeal and find it unavailing. This is not an action to collect unpaid fees as contemplated by the engagement letter. This proceeding was commenced solely for the purpose of staying the arbitration pending a determination of the arbitral issues.


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