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Plaintiff claims she was defrauded in real estate transaction, Appellate Court disagrees. Sosa v. Meyers, 2006 NY Slip Op 52205(U) (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 11/22/2006)


In a dispute over real estate, in this case the court must determine the legal owner of the real estate and the validity of a 30-day notice to terminate a lease agreement.

The real estate is located at 363 Monroe Street, in Brooklyn, New York. The plaintiff moves to show cause for three branches of relief in the case. First, the plaintiff requests a stay on the thirty-day notice of termination. Next, the plaintiff requests a declaratory judgment that the notice of termination is a nullity as there is no lease agreement or tenant/landlord relationship between the two parties and the plaintiff is the rightful owner of the property. Third, the plaintiff requests a restraining order for all actions and proceedings on behalf of the defendants related to the collection of rent and the transfer of the property.

Plaintiff’s argument
Plaintiff Sosa alleges that in December 1999, she was defrauded when she deeded the property on 363 Monroe Street to her niece and her niece’s husband, defendant Eddie Myers. At the time the plaintiff and her niece were joint tenants with the right of survivorship. The witness who signed the deed is defendant Hall.

The plaintiff states in her affidavit to support her order that she only has a third grade education that she received in her 30s in the state of Mississippi and that she has no experience in legal and financial matters. In the verified complaint, the plaintiff’s attorney states that the plaintiff is 83 years old and that she did not realize at the time that she was signing away her rights to the property, which was a lifelong investment, her home, as well as her sole asset. The only professional representation at the signing was the lawyer of her niece, defendant Hall, who she states assured her that she was not giving up her property. In addition, even though the defendants contend that the plaintiff was a tenant, plaintiff never paid rent.

Defendant’s argument
Defendant Meyers in his defense presents a number of bills, cancelled checks, and other related documents to show that after December of 1999, he and his wife acted as the owners of the premise. The couple paid the real estate taxes, water charges, and the property insurance. The defendants also presented an executed 3-year lease signed by the wife of defendant Meyers as the “Landlord” and plaintiff Sosa as the “Tenant.”

The court agreed with the plaintiff on all three issues. First, the court found that the property belongs to Hines. It is clear to the court that the plaintiff signed deeds in both 1992 and 1999. The fact that the plaintiff may have only a 3rd grade education and no experience in legal matters is not sufficient reason to invalidate the transfer of property. The plaintiff must show that there was fraud, or that she was illiterate, incompetent, blind, or lacking in fluency in English. Furthermore, there was evidence that she had legal representation when the deed was executed.

Because the plaintiff signed deeds in both 1992 and 1999 and because there is only speculative evidence of fraud, the court refused to grant plaintiffs requests related to a declaratory judgement that she is the owner of the property and related to requesting a temporary restraining order as to the defendants actions and proceedings with respect to the property.

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