Tom Perotain the New York Law Journal writes of a facinating lawyer on lawyer fight before a special referee.

This is a legal malpractice on a legal malpractice arising from a matrimonial case. Apparently the client went to a malpractice attorney before her matrimonial action was over, and then was disadvantaged because the matrimonial attorney would not give up the file.

Stife and litigation ensued between W.Robert Curtis and David Bushman then battled over whether the client owed her matrimonial attorney about $ 28,000 in fees.

The bizarre special referee’s hearing lasted for weeks, ending with a finding that the matrimonial attorney had suborned perjury, and with Curtis unsuccessfully asking for about $ 400,000 in fees.

The result? It seems that everyone loses. The matrimonial attorney doesn’t get paid and is found to have suborned perjury. Curtis doesn’t get paid. The client apparently did not get custody of her children.

Here are some experts from the story:

A special referee has rejected a claim for $373,000 in legal fees for unusual and contentious litigation stemming from a divorce proceeding in Westchester.

“The referee, James A. Montagnino, said that W. Robert Curtis, an attorney in Manhattan, had created work for himself, and headache for his client, by failing to advise her that it would be “improvident” to sue her former divorce attorney for malpractice before the attorney had given the woman’s file to her new matrimonial lawyer.

The malpractice suit put the client, Janet T. Callaghan, in conflict with her former divorce attorney, Allan J. Berke. Mr. Berke refused to give up the file and sought $28,000 in fees. The dispute resulted in a quantum meruit hearing that lasted 28 days and ended with Special Referee Montagnino rejecting Mr. Berke’s claim for fees, after the referee found that Mr. Berke had suborned perjury from Ms. Callaghan. (See NYLJ, Feb. 17, 2004).”

“Mr. Bushman said he is handling that dispute for a flat fee and is suing Mr. Curtis for malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty on the agreement that he will receive a standard percentage of whatever he wins. He said he also represents three other former clients of Mr. Curtis, and pointed out several cases in which Mr. Curtis or his firm had been sanctioned.”

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Andrew Lavoott Bluestone

Andrew Lavoott Bluestone has been an attorney for 40 years, with a career that spans criminal prosecution, civil litigation and appellate litigation. Mr. Bluestone became an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County in 1978, entered private practice in 1984 and in 1989 opened…

Andrew Lavoott Bluestone has been an attorney for 40 years, with a career that spans criminal prosecution, civil litigation and appellate litigation. Mr. Bluestone became an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County in 1978, entered private practice in 1984 and in 1989 opened his private law office and took his first legal malpractice case.

Since 1989, Bluestone has become a leader in the New York Plaintiff’s Legal Malpractice bar, handling a wide array of plaintiff’s legal malpractice cases arising from catastrophic personal injury, contracts, patents, commercial litigation, securities, matrimonial and custody issues, medical malpractice, insurance, product liability, real estate, landlord-tenant, foreclosures and has defended attorneys in a limited number of legal malpractice cases.

Bluestone also took an academic role in field, publishing the New York Attorney Malpractice Report from 2002-2004.  He started the “New York Attorney Malpractice Blog” in 2004, where he has published more than 4500 entries.

Mr. Bluestone has written 38 scholarly peer-reviewed articles concerning legal malpractice, many in the Outside Counsel column of the New York Law Journal. He has appeared as an Expert witness in multiple legal malpractice litigations.

Mr. Bluestone is an adjunct professor of law at St. John’s University College of Law, teaching Legal Malpractice.  Mr. Bluestone has argued legal malpractice cases in the Second Circuit, in the New York State Court of Appeals, each of the four New York Appellate Divisions, in all four of  the U.S. District Courts of New York and in Supreme Courts all over the state.  He has also been admitted pro haec vice in the states of Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida and was formally admitted to the US District Court of Connecticut and to its Bankruptcy Court all for legal malpractice matters. He has been retained by U.S. Trustees in legal malpractice cases from Bankruptcy Courts, and has represented municipalities, insurance companies, hedge funds, communications companies and international manufacturing firms. Mr. Bluestone regularly lectures in CLEs on legal malpractice.

Based upon his professional experience Bluestone was named a Diplomate and was Board Certified by the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys in 2008 in Legal Malpractice. He remains Board Certified.  He was admitted to The Best Lawyers in America from 2012-2019.  He has been featured in Who’s Who in Law since 1993.

In the last years, Mr. Bluestone has been featured for two particularly noteworthy legal malpractice cases.  The first was a settlement of an $11.9 million dollar default legal malpractice case of Yeo v. Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman which was reported in the NYLJ on August 15, 2016. Most recently, Mr. Bluestone obtained a rare plaintiff’s verdict in a legal malpractice case on behalf of the City of White Plains v. Joseph Maria, reported in the NYLJ on February 14, 2017. It was the sole legal malpractice jury verdict in the State of New York for 2017.

Bluestone has been at the forefront of the development of legal malpractice principles and has contributed case law decisions, writing and lecturing which have been recognized by his peers.  He is regularly mentioned in academic writing, and his past cases are often cited in current legal malpractice decisions. He is recognized for his ample writings on Judiciary Law § 487, a 850 year old statute deriving from England which relates to attorney deceit.