A New York Commercial and Construction Law Firm
Adams Leclair LLP is a litigation law firm that concentrates its practice in commercial and construction advocacy throughout upstate New York. Headquartered in Rochester, New York, we provide specialized counsel, honed by decades of experience in state and federal courts at the trial and appellate levels. We also represent clients in various administrative tribunals from local planning boards and boards of assessment review to state and federal agencies, such as Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the New York State Department of Labor, the EEOC, and the National Labor Relations Board.
Our practice areas additionally include employment, municipal, real property tax, estate and trust litigation. In September 2019, we combined the talents of the construction litigation practitioners from Adams Bell Adams, PC and the experienced commercial litigators from Leclair Korona Cole LLP which has helped us better structure our clients’ business affairs in ways that anticipate and avoid conflict. We are proud of the reputation we have earned among our peers and our clients for vigorous advocacy and effective representation.
Adams Leclair is expanding our team and searching for an associate attorney and paralegal!
We are currently seeking an associate attorney who thrives in a collaborative environment that provides effective and responsive client representation. Learn more about the associate attorney position here – https://lnkd.in/eYH6BKB
We are also seeking a paralegal to join our team to assist attorneys in all phases of cases, from inception through trial. Learn more about the position here – https://lnkd.in/ewKxZXX
Stacey Trien is recognized in the 2021 Edition of The Best Lawyers® Employment Law issue for her legal work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic. This annual issue features the top legal talent practicing in Employment Law in the United States.
At Adams Leclair, Trien regularly provides employment litigation representation and counsels employers on legal and compliance issues.
During the global shutdown, Trien monitored the ever-changing governmental policies affecting the human resource landscape. She updated employers regularly on mandatory safety protocols and their responsibilities to employees. She provided guidance on vaccination policies and work-from-home requirements.
In addition to her role as a practice leader for employment law at Adams Leclair, Trien is currently the President of the Greater Rochester Association of Women Attorneys (GRAWA) for 2021-2022.
Click here to read Trien’s articles regarding Employment Law during COVID-19.
Click here to read The Best Lawyers® Employment Law issue.
Stacy Trien is a founding partner at Adams Leclair LLP.
Real estate litigators are probably aware of New York’s adoption of the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (“UPHPA” or the “Act”) that became effective on December 6, 2019, and is codified at RPAPL § 993. The UPHPA, drafted by the Uniform Law Commission, has been adopted by eighteen states, and is the subject of pending legislation in at least eight additional states. See www.uniformlaws.org for more information.
The UPHPA is designed to protect so-called “heirs property”- defined by the Act as property held by tenants in common, at least one of whom inherited his share of the property from a relative. The New York State Senate Sponsor Memo explained the need for the Act, saying: “In recent years, predatory real estate speculators have taken advantage of New York’s laws governing partition actions by purchasing a stake in a residential property – usually after a number of family members have inherited the property – and then using that owner’s hip stake to file a partition action to dispossess the family of the property through a forced sale, often for pennies on the dollar relative to the actual value of the property.” NYS Senate Sponsor Memo S4865A.
The UPHPA provides an orderly process that, if it does not result in one or more co-owners buying out the co-owner seeking partition, it can sell the property on the open market rather than at auction. The Act contains specific and thorough notice requirements, provides for the parties to bargain “in good faith” at a settlement conference, and requires the court to make a determination of the fair market value of the property, and then offer the defendants to a partition action the option to buy out those seeking partition at a proportional share of the court-determined fair market value. RPAPL § 993.
If the mandated conference does not result in settlement, the court is ordered by the UPHPA to determine the fair market value by conducting an evidentiary hearing. The court may order its own disinterested appraisal if it considers the cost justified, but regardless of whether there is a court-ordered neutral appraisal, the parties may present their own evidence of fair market value. RPAPL § 993(6).
Only partition cases brought on or after December 6, 2019 are subject to the UPHPA in New York. With the litigation delays brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, these cases are just starting to come before New York’s courts. Given the current tumultuous real estate market in much of New York (as well as the rest of the country), practitioners may wonder how courts are to determine “fair market value” in an unpredictable market. The first substantive order applying the UPHPA to a New York property was issued in April of this year, in 2nd Ave Holding 1 LLC v. Lowenbraun, 2021 NY Slip Op 31276(U)(Sup Ct, NY County 2021)(Supp. Decision and Order on Motion), and is instructive on this subject.
2nd Ave Holding concerned a multi-million-dollar, four-story mixed-use property with residential and commercial units in Manhattan. The plaintiff, who had purchased his one-sixth interest in April 2019, attempted to leverage that interest by bringing a partition action against the defendants, who collectively own the remaining 83.333 percent interest in the property. The action was brought on December 24, 2019, just weeks after passage of the UPHPA, and the court first ordered the plaintiff to show cause why the property should not be treated as “heirs property” under the Act. 2nd Ave. Holding at *1.
Following its determination that the property was indeed subject to the UPHPA, 2020 NY Slip Op 30803(U)(Sup Ct, NY County 2020)(Trial Order), the court, following a settlement conference at which the parties failed to reach an agreement, ordered a neutral appraisal.
At the subsequent evidentiary hearing on fair market value, the court considered the neutral appraisal, competing appraisals obtained by the two sides, as well as various objections to the neutral appraisal from all parties.
All three appraisers gave testimony at the hearing. In its decision, the court evaluated each appraiser’s methods and analysis in great detail, including each appraiser’s assessment of excess development rights, any market adjustment due to the negative market impact of the pandemic on commercial properties in New York, the highest and best use of the property, how each appraiser calculated income capitalization rates, and the use of an effective gross income multiplier sometimes used in assessing apartment buildings. 2nd Ave Holding at *4-12.
The court also discussed whether the Act required it to determine fair market value as of a particular date. While the plaintiff argued for a pre-pandemic valuation to apply, the court found that the Act didn’t require it to assess fair market value as of the date of the petition’s filing, but, rather, that the parties were both “subject to the whims of fortune” and that the court could “exercise broad discretion” in selecting a rational date. 2nd Ave Holding at *15-16. Accordingly, it selected September 24, 2020, as that was the date used by the court-ordered appraiser. It did so in spite of the relative lack of comparable sales during the pandemic, finding that the definition of fair market value is “the price at which a transaction could be expected to take place under conditions existing on the valuation date.” 2nd Ave Holding at *16.
The three appraisers opined that the value of the property was anywhere from $2.9 million to $10.4 million. The court determined that income capitalization was the preferred method for determining value for this type of property and discounted several of the appraisers’ conclusions based on what it judged to be unwarranted adjustments. It then averaged the three final, adjusted appraisal numbers, and found the property had a fair market valuation of $5.177 million. That number included a 15% reduction of value due to the pandemic, and the court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the lack of sales during the pandemic demonstrated a consensus among owners that their property was worth more than it would bring in the current market as “pure sophistry.” 2nd Ave Holding at *16.
Under § 993(7)(b), it is now up to the defendants to notify the court whether they intend to purchase the plaintiff’s interest in the property. While that remains to be seen, 2nd Ave Holding offers an informative view of how New York courts may apply the new UPHPA to the currently chaotic real estate market.
Erin Casey represents businesses and individuals in complex disputes in federal and state courts, in arbitration, and before governmental agencies.
Mary Jo Korona and Stacey Trien are among the attorneys featured in the sixth annual “Women In Law” Business Edition.
This publication celebrates the accomplishments of women in the legal industry who have been recognized for 2021 in The Best Lawyers in America©.
Both women are founding partners of Adams Leclair LLP. Mary Jo Korona is currently serving as Senior Counsel focusing her practice on advising higher education institutions and resolving commercial, business relationship and contract disputes. Stacey Trien leads the litigation team handling employment and insurance matters. Trien is the current President of GRAWA (Greater Rochester Association of Women Attorneys).
Rochester, N.Y.–Adams Leclair LLP is once again highlighted in the annual Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business in the category of Commercial Litigation, as were attorneys Paul Leclair and Steven Cole.
- Paul Leclair is a founding partner of Adams Leclair and has practiced in Rochester for more than thirty years. He assists clients with a diverse range of complex commercial matters, including partnership disputes, breach of contract, insurance, and construction matters.
- Steven Cole is the managing partner at Adams Leclair and advises both individual and corporate clients on issues such as trade secrets disputes, intellectual property matters and securities litigation.
Chambers USA sought-after rankings are the result of extensive research and interviews with in-house counsel and corporate executives.
Adams Leclair LLP is a commercial litigation boutique with an experienced bench of attorneys in Rochester and Albany, New York. Adams Leclair LLP represents clients in a variety of practice areas including commercial litigation, construction law, employment law, trade secret protection, financial services litigation, shareholder disputes, intellectual property litigation, municipal law and tax assessment, and trust and estates litigation.