Extensive loopholes leave buyers and sellers of residential real property governed by the common law

New York’s property condition disclosure act: Extensive loopholes leave buyers and sellers of residential real property governed by the common law

Lucrezia, Philip

INTRODUCTION

What good is a car without a motor or a house without a roof? Consider a hawk without its razor-sharp beak or a shark without teeth. Because each part is essential to the operation of the whole, one concludes, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”1 Whether it is a personal asset or a predatory animal, none of these entities can serve its intended purpose if it is not properly equipped. The shark and the hawk cannot hunt; the car cannot move; the house cannot shelter. Only because the parts co-exist and complement each other can the entity function. Without this fundamental balance, the whole cannot serve its purpose–take away one or more parts and the whole fails miserably.

The New York Property Condition Disclosure Act (the “Act”),2 which went into effect on March 1, 2002, is unfortunately failing as a whole. This new law, requiring sellers of residential real estate to complete and deliver a forty-eight question disclosure statement to buyers, is riddled with loopholes because it is missing many parts.3 The New York legislature asserted that the buying and selling of residential homes is “complicated by misunderstandings arising from an ad hoc transfer process and conflicting information.”4 It therefore presented this statute as a “mechanism intended to increase [buyers’ and sellers’] ability to obtain information concerning a home purchase and sale.”5 In its current form, however, it is doubtful that sellers in New York will ever provide the disclosure statement, and in the event that they do, it is unlikely to facilitate an improvement in the information transfer. Although the intent was noble, the instrument is feeble.

Part I of this Note begins with an overview of caveat emptor, New York’s traditional rule regarding the transfer of real estate. It then presents New York’s common law exceptions to this rule, the nationwide policy favoring disclosure legislation, and the drive for legislation within New York. Part II examines the inherent problems that cause New York’s legislation as a whole to fail in its objective. This examination is facilitated by a nationwide survey comparing similar legislation in all states that have such laws.6 A close look at the varying legislation reveals where New York failed to adopt effective provisions used by other states and, conversely, where shortcomings by other states were recognized, but not corrected, by New York.

This Note affirms the proposition that the loopholes in the legislation impair its effectiveness as a means of increasing buyers’ and sellers’ “ability to obtain information concerning a [residential transaction and eliminate] misunderstandings arising from an ad hoc transfer process.”7 At most, New York’s legislation only eliminates the risk of liability on the part of brokers who, arguably, are in the best position to inspect the premises, discover defects, and make disclosures to purchasers.8 Some critical changes can potentially give this statute some bite; nevertheless, in its current form, the common law will inevitably control.

I. BACKGROUND

A. An Overview of Caveat Emptor

Traditionally, the Latin phrase “caveat emptor” has been interpreted to mean “let the buyer beware.”9 It is an ancient maxim that places the risks of dealing at arm’s length completely within the realm of a buyer, “summariz[ing] the rule that a purchaser must examine, judge, and test for himself.”10 With regard to real estate, it is “shorthand for a rubric of affirmative legal defenses . . . available to sellers of real property to effectively thwart claims by disappointed purchasers.”11 While contemporary courts’ employment of the maxim predominantly surfaces in real estate cases, many scholars recognize its origins in an early English case dealing with the sale of a jewel.12 Though it may be difficult to extract the origins of caveat emptor from the English court’s comprehensive discussion of fraud and warranty claims, scholarly interpretations have confirmed the theory.13 Over the years, the maxim has been frequently applied to a range of scenarios in which sellers seek to evade liability from disgruntled purchasers14 and has become very well established in both the United States and England.15 It has even come to be used more frequently by our courts16 than those of its native England.17

New York especially abides by the principle of caveat emptor with respect to real estate and “imposes no duty on the seller to disclose any information concerning the premises when the parties [have dealt] at arm’s length.”18 By this principle, it is well established that the seller is under no duty to speak and silence alone will not amount to liability on his or her part.19 Even in the case of new construction, where buyers expect a new home in mint condition, New York once stringently adhered to caveat emptor, thereby precluding any liability of builders resulting from their silence concerning defects.20 Fortunately, this rule no longer holds true with new construction;21 nevertheless, the principle survives in all other arms length dealings.

B. The Evolution of Caveat Emptor in New York

Despite the historic, unrelenting application of caveat emptor in New York, limitations have nonetheless evolved.22 The two most prominent situations in which New York courts have required sellers to disclose information regarding the premises are when the parties are in a “confidential or fiduciary relationship”23 or when the seller “actively conceals”24 facts that would expose a defect. In 1991, however, in the celebrated case of Stambousky v. Ackley,25 New York took a bold step in expanding a seller’s duty to disclose. This case now stands for a famous, narrow exception to caveat emptor in New York:

Where a condition which has been created by the seller materially impairs the value of the contract and is peculiarly within the knowledge of the seller or unlikely to be discovered by a prudent purchaser exercising due care with respect to the subject transaction, nondisclosure constitutes a basis for rescission as a matter of equity.26

Though the rule apparently applies strictly to conditions created by the seller, it is most frequently cited for the tenet that sellers must disclose all facts about the premises that are peculiarly within their knowledge and not readily discoverable by prospective buyers upon reasonable inspection.27

Therefore, as a seller’s duty to disclose is limited to facts not readily discoverable upon a reasonable inspection, the traditional interpretation of caveat emptor as buyer beware is no longer appropriate, as New York attorney Karl Holtzschue28 has recognized.29 The full Latin phrase, [c]aveat emptor qui ignorare non debuit quod jus alienum emit, is more appropriate because it requires that a purchaser “who ought not be ignorant of the amount and nature of the interest to be acquired, exercise proper caution.”30 Consequently, ” ‘buyer take care’ would be more accurate than ‘buyer beware,’ which might be interpreted to mean that the buyer takes all risks.”31 Stambovsky and many cases that have followed demonstrate that the buyer should not and does not take all risks.32

C. The Move for Legislation Among the States

As states began to see various inequities arise from applying the common law doctrine of caveat emptor, the view emerged that sellers, and sometimes brokers, ought to have a greater duty to disclose certain conditions about the premises for sale.33 A 1984 landmark case, Easton v. Strassburger,34 decided by the California Court of Appeal, encouraged legislators in the United States to address these inequities. Easton created a common law rule imposing an affirmative duty on brokers of residential real property to “conduct a reasonably competent and diligent inspection of the residential property . . . and to disclose to prospective purchasers all facts materially affecting the value or desirability of the property that such an investigation would reveal.”35 In 1986, the California legislature codified the rule articulated in Easton, developing what has come to be regarded as the most comprehensive disclosure-requiring legislation for both sellers and brokers of residential real estate.36 California set the stage for a stream of me too legislation by other states; however, none reach as far as California in protecting the buyer.37

D. The Move for Legislation in New York

The property condition disclosure legislation in New York was introduced at the “urging of the New York Association of Realtors as early as 1998 and again in 1999.”38 The bill was first introduced in 1998 as Bill Number A. 1173, and then again in 1999, as Bill Number S.5039.39 After the Real Property Law Section of the New York State Bar Association objected to many features of the legislation40 and the Task Force on Disclosure for the Real Property Law Section led by Karl B. Holtzschue was developed,41 Governor Pataki vetoed the legislation, though he made clear that “his staff stood ready to work on improvements to the bill.”42 Thereafter, the Task Force on Disclosure for the Real Property Law Section of the New York State Bar Association worked jointly with the New York State Association of Realtors for approximately one year to develop modifications for the Act that would be compatible with both groups’ interests.43 The Executive Committee of the Real Property Law Section then voted to approve the draft that evolved from the negotiations.44 Most of the objections that were mentioned by the Real Property Law Section were addressed in the second version of the bill,45 which was signed by Governor George Pataki and codified into the current version of the statute.46 In any case, several concerns remain unresolved and, when coupled with other defects, present several shortcomings in the legislation. This Note asserts that, in its current form, the Act does not benefit buyers of residential real property in the manner in which it was intended to.

II. PROBLEMS WITH NEW YORK’S PROPERTY CONDITION DISCLOSURE ACT

A. $500 Credit to the Buyer Against the Purchase Price in the Event the Seller Fails to Deliver the Completed Disclosure Form

The primary loophole in the legislation is the $500 credit to the buyer in the event that the seller fails to deliver the disclosure statement prior to the buyer’s signing of the real estate contract.47 This feature of the legislation seems to have generated the most discussion across the state of New York. The apparent consensus is that attorneys representing sellers are counseling their clients to simply provide the $500 credit to buyers rather than subject themselves to possible liability48 in the future.49 Consequently, attorneys representing buyers should urge their clients to demand that sellers comply with the statute and deliver the completed form if they are not already doing so. If a seller gives neither the disclosure statement nor the $500 credit, the purchaser can subsequently bring suit upon “closing as a breach of the statute.”50

Though many have come to recognize this provision of the statute as a buy-out option, others argue that this portion of the statute requiring a $500 credit is nothing of the sort, but rather a penalty for violating the statute.51 In practice, however, regardless of the purported legislative intent or reason for its inclusion, the provision truly has the effect of offering an option for sellers to buy-out of their statutory obligation.52 When considering the potential liability that may result from certain inquiries,53 logic compels sellers simply to provide the $500 credit rather than expose themselves to risk. Although the statute specifically declares that liability to the buyer may only come to fruition by a “knowingly false or incomplete statement . . . on [the] form,”54 there is always the risk of litigation, which may result, at a minimum, in costs of defending.55 When considering the purchase prices of homes in today’s market,56 $500 is not much to sacrifice for this “insurance policy” and the peace of mind it effectuates for sellers.57 Consequently, buyers are unlikely to ever receive a disclosure statement; it is simply too easy for sellers to be relieved of their obligations.

Although it is true that this legislation would benefit both buyers and sellers by eliminating the complications caused by “misunderstandings arising from an ad hoc transfer process and conflicting information,”58 the built-in escape hatch methodically promotes non-compliance. This thwarts the legislative intent and severely undermines the statute’s effectiveness. Of the thirty-six states that have enacted similar legislation, only Connecticut and Rhode Island have provisions allowing the sellers, in effect, to pay a sum of money to remove themselves from the scope of the legislation.59 The scarcity of a buy-out provision among other states corroborates the argument that it destroys any compliance that the statute was meant to create.60

Rhode Island’s legislation drastically diminishes seller compliance with an essentially trivial buy-out price.61 It provides that a seller’s failure to deliver the condition disclosure report “does not void the agreement nor create any defect in title; however, each violation of this statute by [seller or broker] is subject to a civil penalty in the amount of one hundred dollars ($100) per occurrence.”62 Not only is the amount insignificant, it is merely a civil penalty rather than a credit against the purchase price to the buyer. In this case, not only is the buyer deprived of a disclosure report, he or she is also deprived of a monetary credit towards the purchase price.63 Coupled with the fact that a buyer may rescind the purchase agreement64 in the event he or she discovers a defect not disclosed in the disclosure form, it is difficult to imagine why any seller would comply with the disclosure statute. No rational seller would risk being left with unwanted residential property over a measly $100 civil penalty.

Connecticut’s statute, on the other hand, more closely resembles New York’s statute than Rhode Island’s. Its disclosure legislation has a built-in provision requiring that “every agreement to purchase residential real estate, for which a written residential condition report is required . . . shall include a requirement that the seller credit the purchaser with the sum of three hundred dollars at closing should the seller fail to furnish the written residential condition report.”65 Connecticut courts have labeled this credit to the purchaser as a nominal penalty against a seller who fails to provide the report.66 A nominal penalty, however, will not compel compliance with the statute by sellers of residential real estate.67

Though New York’s buy-out option is the highest of the three states, it remains nominal in light of today’s real estate prices.68 The provision merely has the effect of defeating any compliance the law may otherwise have achieved.69 Because the original outline of the Property Condition Disclosure Act did not have this credit, Governor Pataki expressed some apprehension in his veto letter.70 He made clear that something was needed to coerce completion of a disclosure form because “prudent and well-counseled sellers, especially given the potentially enormous consequences stemming from completion of a [property condition disclosure statement], might well determine that the sounder course is to refuse to complete a [property condition disclosure statement].”71 Forcing sellers to give buyers a $500 credit will not achieve this goal; the amount, therefore, should be considerably higher-high enough to make a seller think twice before “opting out.”72

Furthermore, Governor Pataki was also quite skeptical about whether or not New York needed to expand the possible liability for sellers of residential real estate.73 Some have made compelling arguments suggesting that the credit is not a worthless buy-out but rather an attempt by the legislature to shift the cost of an engineer’s inspection from buyer to seller.74 This could explain why the original suggestion by the Bill’s sponsors for an amount of $750 was reduced to $500 after negotiations with Pataki’s counsel.75 This argument is further corroborated by the fact that the average cost of a home inspection in New York is more or less equal to the buy-out sum provided for in the legislation.76 Because prospective purchasers are the ones who obtain a home inspection, they are better able to protect themselves from a bad purchase than sellers are able to shield themselves from future liability. When considering the competing interests of each party, leaving buyers to depend on their own home inspection for disclosure and forcing the seller to pay the bill is not such a bad alternative.77

B. Failure to Impose Any Duty on Seller to Conduct Investigations or Inspections in Fulfilling His or Her Statutory Obligations

Another feature of New York’s legislation that diminishes its effectiveness is its failure to impose any duty on the seller to investigate or inspect the premises.78 First and foremost, the provision is ambiguous on what “investigate or inspect” entails. Until a court has a chance to rule on the scope of this text, its ambiguity will leave sellers uncertain as to how to fulfill their obligation and leave practitioners uncertain as to how best to advise their clients.79 Any seller would question whether he or she is absolved from conducting even the most negligible of investigations, such as thumbing through receipts to find an exact date of a roof replacement. Of the thirty-six states with disclosure legislation, only six, including New York, absolve the seller from the duty to perform an independent investigation or inspection of the premises in order to complete the form.80 Although the majority of the states never address the issue,81 two states have adopted very feasible and effective approaches.

Hawaii, for example, requires the seller to use “good faith and due care” in preparing the disclosure form and explains: ” ‘[I]n good faith and with due care’ includes honesty in fact in the investigation, research, and preparation of the disclosure statement.”82 By the text alone, there is no doubt that the legislature intended to impose a duty to investigate on the part of the seller. This approach gives the statute the teeth it needs to assure that disclosure to a prospective purchaser does in fact inform him or her of the conditions of the premises. In the event that sellers are unclear about the level of investigation they are to perform under the statute, Hawaii inserted a provision reading: “[A] seller or seller’s agent shall be under no obligation to engage the services of any person in the investigation, research, or preparation of the disclosure statement.”83 With unequivocal instructions such as this, sellers and their attorneys recognize that the legislature is not looking for an exhaustive inspection that falls beyond the scope of their abilities or expertise. They are instead looking for a walk-around-and-kick-the-tires-type inspection, which could be performed by the average person.84

Idaho also provides for a reasonable degree of inspection by the seller when completing the disclosure statement. Within the stated purpose of the legislation that appears at the top of the disclosure statement, the text reads: “Unless otherwise advised, the Seller has not conducted any inspection of generally inaccessible areas such as the foundation or roof.”85 Impliedly, this indicates that in completing the statement, the seller will conduct an investigation or inspection of the generally accessible areas, thus imparting a reasonable responsibility on the seller.86 Like Hawaii and almost all other statutes in this area of law, Idaho also requires “good faith” in making the disclosure.87

For sellers in New York who decide to supply the disclosure statement, it is not possible for them to fulfill the requirements of the Property Condition Disclosure Act in a manner satisfying the proclaimed legislative intent without conducting, at a minimum, a reasonable inspection or investigation of the premises.88 The majority of the questions ask about areas of the dwelling that an inhabitant does not come into contact with on a regular basis. For instance, questions twenty-eight and twenty-nine ask the last time a septic tank was pumped and the correct amperage of the electric service.89 As this information cannot be acquired through a visual inspection of the property, the buyer will ultimately not know the answer unless the seller investigates, learns, and discloses.90 To answer honestly and in “good faith,” the seller should, at a minimum, take a look at what he or she is about to comment on.

In addition, the Act requires the seller to answer the necessary questions based upon “actual knowledge.”91 The range of problems to which an owner would have actual knowledge is very limited. While “actual knowledge” is a reasonable standard,92 without a parallel reasonable investigation or inspection, “actual knowledge” will almost never be sufficient for many of the form’s enumerated items. Consequently, the absence of a duty to investigate coupled with the limited standard of “actual knowledge” impedes the legislative purpose. Though the standard of actual knowledge is appropriate, the legislature should impose, at a minimum, a duty to perform some reasonable amount of investigation or inspection of the premises.

C. The Ability of a Prospective Purchaser to Waive His or Her Rights to a Disclosure Form by Seller

Attributable largely to legislative silence and a booming real estate market, the ability of a prospective purchaser to waive his or her rights under the Property Condition Disclosure Act is apparent.93 The inflated prices and high demand of today’s real estate market dictate that sellers who refuse to provide disclosure and also refuse to give a $500 credit to the buyer may just have their way. Proponents of the legislation and the legislators themselves could have provided that the disclosure requirement be non-waivable, as has been done with other New York laws.94 Such a provision, however, was not included.

Although it may not be in the best interest of buyers, many are willing to give up their rights under this legislation if doing so facilitates obtaining the house they want.95 In a flourishing real estate market, chances are that other prospective purchasers are ready to make offers and willing to waive their rights.96 Unfortunately, only five states expressly permit a buyer to waive their rights under the respective legislation. The majority of the states, including New York, are silent on the issue, which leaves open the option depending on market conditions.97

Only Maryland and California expressly prohibit a purchaser from waiving his or her rights under the legislation.98 This ensures that buyers will not be forced into giving up their rights under the pressure of a strong market and also that they can benefit from the legislation as was intended. While a complete ban of waiver appears to be the best-case scenario for buyers, waiver itself is not always adverse to buyer’s interests. Evaluating the specific facts of each situation gives a better picture of when waiver is appropriate and when it is not. For example, while waiver between two consumers presumably having equal bargaining power and equal knowledge of the transaction is appropriate, waiver between a consumer and mass developer may not be. Of course, one can argue that the owner of a dwelling will always have superior knowledge about the subject matter of the transaction than a prospective purchaser. In any event, the New York legislature should address the issue of waiver rather than leaving it wide open as the majority of the states have. Instead, this is yet another weakness in the legislation’s present form that gives sellers a way to dodge disclosure.

D. New York’s Failure to Include Condominiums and Cooperative Apartments Within the Scope of the Act

Among the thirty-six states legislating in this area,99 New York is the only state that excludes condominiums and cooperative apartments from the scope of its statute. All other states include such units expressly or, if silent on the issue, in the statutory definition of a residential dwelling.100 The ability of New York’s legislation to provide information for buyers as a class about the condition of their prospective purchase is severely impaired by the fact that large portions of the sales taking place are statutorily excluded. With the applicable legislation excluding the coverage of these units, prospective buyers of such residences are left with no protective legislation, as the condominium association or cooperative corporation has no duty to disclose anything to them. The Real Property Law Section of the New York State Bar Association has expressed concerns over the statute’s exclusion of condominiums and cooperatives.101 Indeed, there are many problems that can develop in such a unit that are the responsibility of the respective owners and should be disclosed by them when attempting to sell.102

Although the disclosure form that New York uses may be excessively comprehensive for condominiums and cooperatives, prospective purchasers of such units should be entitled to the same benefits of disclosure as those purchasing traditional one to four-family dwellings. Realistically, the lower prices of condominium units or cooperative apartments are likely to attract first time purchasers who would most need protective legislation. The only logical rationale that may explain why condominiums and cooperatives are excluded is that the exteriors and many working systems of such units are the responsibility of the condominium association or cooperative corporation. Consequently, a defect discovered after closing would not present a financial burden to the new owner but would nonetheless cause other inconveniences, such as the scheduling of repairs or the necessity of alternate housing while repairs are performed.103 This type of inconvenience should not be disregarded, as immediate and continuous occupation is often crucial to a buyer’s decision to purchase.104

A separate form that requires sellers of condominiums and cooperative apartments to disclose information that is within the scope of their knowledge would seem to be a reasonable solution. It would benefit buyers, for example, if a seller was required to disclose defects such as water damage, smoke damage, rodent or pest infestation, or the condition of the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Sensibly, questions such as the presence of toxins in the soil, the presence of lead pipes, and the condition of the plumbing are not within the scope of the seller’s knowledge and should not be included in the statement. Pennsylvania has approached this issue in a favorable manner. Pennsylvania’s disclosure legislation provides that sellers of condominiums or cooperatives “shall be obligated to make disclosures under this chapter only with respect to the seller’s own unit and shall not be obligated by this chapter to make any disclosure with respect to any common elements or common facilities of the condominium or cooperative.”105 This approach is a feasible and moderate alternative to New York’s strict approach. Accordingly, the New York legislature should provide for a similar limitation or adopt a separate disclosure form for the sale of condominiums and cooperative apartments.

E. Failure of New York to Impose a Duty on Sellers to Disclose Information About Convicted Sex Offenders in the Neighboring Area

For families with young children, the presence of a convicted sex offender in their neighborhood is a matter of utmost concern.106 Although it is praiseworthy that the New York legislature was concerned with the health and safety of prospective purchasers by requiring sellers to disclose the presence of underground toxins, lead, asbestos, and radon, it is unusual that the legislature chose not to address the disclosure of information affecting the safety of young children. The presence of a convicted sex offender is a matter of significant public concern, evidenced by the enactment of Megan’s Law by the federal government, which requires such persons to register in the locality in which they live so as to alert neighbors of their presence.107 Despite the importance of this disclosure to prospective purchasers, it can be easily overlooked as browsing buyers become engulfed in other matters such as condition of title, structure, amenities, property taxes, and other matters that drive the real estate market.

New York, unfortunately, follows strict caveat emptor regarding this issue and has ruled accordingly. In the case of Glazer v. LoPreste,108 the Appellate Division, Second Department, held that the seller and broker of a residential home in New York were under no duty to disclose that a convicted sex offender lived across the street.109 The court reiterated the well-known rule that “New York imposes no duty on either the seller or the seller’s agent to disclose any information concerning the premises unless there is a confidential or fiduciary relationship between the parties or some conduct on the part of the seller which constitutes active concealment.”110 Having been decided in the midst of the legislative debate regarding the Property Condition Disclosure Act, it is not unreasonable to expect that this would have been addressed by the legislature; it was not.111

If full disclosure of the presence of a convicted sex offender in the neighborhood was considered an unfair duty to impose on a seller,112 a compromise between the competing interests of the buyer and seller would be ideal. Of the many states legislating on disclosure, five states have addressed the issue.113 Nevada’s statute asserts that information regarding the presence of convicted sex offenders is immaterial to the selling transaction and therefore imposes no duty on sellers to disclose any knowledge in their possession.114 Virginia similarly imposes no duty on sellers to disclose this information but informs prospective purchasers that it is their duty to get information regarding the presence of sex offenders in the neighborhood.115 Alaska, Connecticut, and California adopt a reasonable approach, requiring the seller to disclose where such information can be located and how a buyer would proceed in retrieving it.116 Although a buyer does not get an answer directly from the seller, this requirement keeps the issue at the forefront of buyers’ minds and encourages sellers to find out for themselves. In New York, once sellers have actual knowledge, they are required to answer truthfully if a prospective purchaser specifically inquires about it.117 In essence, while the statute may only require the seller to provide the information that would allow the buyer to investigate the presence of a sex offender, it will, in some cases, have the practical effect of requiring disclosure to the buyer. Regardless, it acts as a reminder to buyers in the event that they overlook it. This type of information should be disclosed to buyers; the safety of children is of paramount importance. Therefore, the state legislature should address this issue accordingly.

CONCLUSION

For all intents and purposes, the New York Property Condition Disclosure Act has too many missing parts to function properly. The buy-out provision is inadequate; the statute imposes no duty on the seller to investigate or inspect the premises. Likewise, the issue of waiver by buyers is not addressed. Additionally, there is neither a disclosure requirement for sellers of condominiums and cooperative apartments nor a requirement to disclose the presence of convicted sex offenders. While this statute’s operation as a “whole” seeks to “increase [a buyer’s and seller’s] ability to obtain information concerning a home purchase and sale,”118 it fails for the lack of these essential parts.

As is the case with all legislation, the individual provisions must work and come together for a unified purpose. In the event that one part is missing, the scheme of the entire legislation will inevitably fail. The Property Condition Disclosure Act fails as a whole because of the abundance of loopholes permitting sellers to evade compliance. The only class actually protected by this legislation is New York’s real estate brokers, who have only a duty to “timely inform” both buyers and sellers of their rights and obligations under the Act.119 Once a broker completes this duty, he or she “[will] have no further duties under [the Act] and shall not be liable to any party for a violation [thereof].”120 If the intent of the legislature was truly to increase the flow of information from sellers to prospective purchasers, the statute needs to be overhauled. Until then, the common law of New York will dictate, and this legislation will continually be sidestepped.

PHILIP LUCREZIA[dagger][dagger] J.D. Candidate, June 2004, St. John’s University School of Law; B.S., St. Thomas Aquinas College, 2001.

Copyright St. John’s Law Review Association Spring 2003

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