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How a Tactfully Aggressive Litigation Strategy Defeated a Succession Claim

By Christopher Halligan


In Lev Sehav Menahem Mendel S.F. Management LLC. v. Edward Faust, the attorneys at Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. succeeded at trial in evicting a tenant who claimed inheritance rights (“succession”) to a rent controlled apartment in Washington Heights.

Legal Issue
To establish succession, a deceased tenant’s close family member must prove that s/he lived in the apartment with the tenant for at least two years prior to the tenant’s death.

Facts
When the tenant of a rent controlled apartment passed away, her son wrote a letter to the landlord claiming succession rights to the unit; however, the superintendent of the building notified the landlord that he had never seen the son in the building before. With these bare facts, the landlord retained the Landlord and Tenant Department at Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. to evict the lying son.

The Purported Successor’s Proof
At trial, the son presented four witnesses, including tenants in the building, who all testified that although the son had lived in New Jersey for some time, they knew he moved in with his mother at least two years prior to her death because they had seen him at the subject apartment. The son also presented credit card statements and magazine subscriptions in his name which were addressed to the subject apartment.

How the Attorneys at Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. Defeated the Purported Successor’s Proof
The son, at his deposition, stated repeatedly that he was easily confused because of a prior head trauma. Concerned that the judge would postpone the case for months to appoint a guardian for the son if the son pulled the same tactic at trial, the trial attorney cleverly uncovered the son’s lies without questioning the son too much so as to give him the opportunity to act incapacitated before the judge. Through a pre-trial investigation the attorneys found that the bank foreclosed on a property the son owned in New Jersey about two years before his mother’s death and that he signed a one year lease for a rental unit in New Jersey at that time. This documentary evidence placed the son in New Jersey for at least one of the two years before his mother passed away. Additionally, the attorney at trial convinced the judge that the witness testimony presented by the son was not probative because none of the witnesses could remember the exact dates that the son supposedly moved back in to his mother’s apartment.

Christopher Halligan and Emily Tejerina prevailed at trial for Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C.

Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C.

NEW YORK REAL ESTATE ATTORNEYS