Second Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment Obtained by Michael Ryan and Jonathan Zellner in Vexatious Litigation Lawsuit

February 1, 2021

On February 1, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the granting of a motion for summary judgment which Attorneys Michael Ryan and Jonathan Zellner obtained in a vexatious litigation lawsuit against their client, a local attorney.  Attorneys Ryan and Zellner represented the attorney, who had previously represented two brothers in litigation against a third brother arising out of the brother’s alleged mishandling of the finances and assets of their late father’s estate.  Following a judgment in favor of the attorney’s clients in that action, the attorney brought suit on the brothers’ behalf against a certified public accountant who was retained to prepare accountings of the estate’s finances and assets.  The trial court in the underlying litigation dismissed the action on summary judgment.  Although the Appellate Court of Connecticut overturned the entry of judgment on most of the claims pled, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed, with one Supreme Court justice dissenting.

Thereafter, the plaintiff filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut against the attorney and the brothers, claiming that the defendants had brought the underlying action vexatiously.  Attorneys Ryan and Zellner moved for summary judgment, arguing that probable cause existed for the claims which the attorney had asserted on behalf of her clients.  In a detailed memorandum of decision, the Honorable Robert Chatigny granted the motion, concluding that the evidence showed that probable cause existed for each of the claims alleged in the underlying action.  The plaintiff appealed the district court’s decision to the Second Circuit, which affirmed the granting of summary judgment for substantially the same reasons as the district court.