In early April 2020, the First Department affirmed the dismissal of a complaint by a Russian lawyer who had received an L.L.M. from Fordham University alleging “civil conspiracy” against Fordham and several American attorneys, reasoning that New York does not recognize a stand-alone claim of civil conspiracy.
The First Department explained that “New York does not recognize an independent cause of action for civil conspiracy, which may only be asserted to connect actions of separate defendants to an underlying tort.” Put another way, if a complaint alleges some other cognizable cause of action, the plaintiff may assert a claim of civil conspiracy in order to connect multiple defendants to the same tort, but civil conspiracy cannot stand on its own as an independent cause of action.
While the opinion was short and contained little detail about the underlying complaint, it noted that plaintiff alleged “bare, conclusory allegations” that the defendants conspired to: defraud plaintiff, breach a retainer agreement with a non-party to the appeal, breach a fiduciary duty, and intentionally inflict emotional distress upon him.
The First Department’s holding reaffirms longstanding Court of Appeals precedent on this issue. Alexander & Alexander of New York, Inc. v. Fritzen, 68 N.Y.2d 968 (1986).