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Korff v. Corbett

Supreme Court of New York, First Department

November 2, 2017

Joseph Korff, Plaintiff-Appellant-Respondent,
v.
Richard A. Corbett, et al., Defendants-Respondents-Appellants.

          Oberdier Ressmeyer LLP, New York (Carl W. Oberdier of counsel), for appellant-respondent.

          Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell & Peskoe LLP, New York (David J. Eiseman of counsel), for respondents-appellants.

          Tom, J.P., Richter, Mazzarelli, Manzanet-Daniels, Gische, JJ.

         Orders, Supreme Court, New York County (Eileen Bransten, J.), entered June 17, 2016, which, insofar as appealed from as limited by the briefs, granted defendants' motion for summary judgment declaring that nonparty CSAT, L.P. is not defendants' affiliate and that its gross revenue does not come within the scope of paragraph 3 of the letter agreement on which plaintiff sues, and dismissing part of the contract claim on statute of limitations grounds, denied defendants' motion as to the remainder of the contract claim, and granted plaintiff's motion for summary judgment dismissing the ninth affirmative defense (based on General Obligations Law § 5-1105), unanimously modified, on the law, to deny plaintiff's motion, and grant defendants' motion as to the entire contract claim, and otherwise affirmed, without costs.

         This appeal revolves around a one-page letter agreement between plaintiff, an attorney and real estate consultant, on the one hand, and defendant Corbett and "all entities in which he has an interest, " on the other. In its entirety, the agreement, which was signed by plaintiff and countersigned by Corbett and International Plaza in or about July 1990, the entity under which Corbett did business, stated as follows:

"Dear Dick,
"At least one of us had in mind a 50-50 partnership several years ago. To avoid unproductive controversy:
"1. All my firm's legal bills and interest thereon... will be cleared up out of the first available financing sources. You will pay $25, 000 per month against such bills until that time.
"2. The equivalent of $500, 000 plus interest at 15% per annum from September 5, 1985 will be paid to me from the first decent term financing source (for example: sale, lease, joint venture, or more than 3 years overall financing).
"3. You will pay upon receipt by International
Plaza, its partners or affiliates, 5% of gross receipts (excluding gross receipts from the current golf course operation) until $26, 250, 000 is paid when the percentage will be 10%....
"Sincerely,
"Joseph Korff"

         Although paragraph 1 of the Agreement is not at issue here, we note that the legal services referenced therein were delivered beginning in the early 1980s, primarily by plaintiff as a solo practitioner, in connection with Corbett's efforts to develop a 135-acre parcel of land in Tampa, Florida, to which he and International Plaza had acquired the ground lease in 1979. Plaintiff maintains, and defendants do not seriously dispute, that his role with respect to the development extended well beyond traditional legal work to such a degree that plaintiff, in his own words, was ...


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