Justice Ramos of Supreme Court, New York County is handling a strange case.  Plaintiff sued American Home Products in a Phen-Fen case with Napoli Bern being lead counsel.  A conflict exists between their direct clients and the rest of the group. 

"A New York state judge has ordered a trial to determine whether the law firm that negotiated a massive settlement with the maker of banned diet drug fen-phen violated ethical rules by apportioning the settlement in a manner designed to inflate the firm’s share of the funds.

In 2001, the firm now known as Napoli Bern Ripka sued American Home Products (AHP), now known as Wyeth, on behalf of around 5,000 former users of fen-phen (dexfenfluramine), a diet drug recalled by the Food and Drug Administration after studies linked it to heart valve damage. American Home settled the suit under confidential terms, though the settlement has been estimated to be over $1 billion.

But in a decision issued Tuesday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Ramos said there were serious questions about Napoli Bern’s conduct in dividing and distributing the settlement that needed to be addressed in a trial. He cited in particular an affidavit submitted by a former attorney at Napoli Bern who said the firm had misled clients about the process.

The lawyer, Stephen David Murakami, worked on fen-phen litigation at Napoli Bern before being terminated in 2001 and then unsuccessfully sued the firm for allegedly unpaid bonuses. In his affidavit, Murakami said the firm had told clients their portions of the settlement had been individually negotiated with American Home, when in fact they had been solely determined by Napoli Bern.

"The representation to a client that a specific dollar amount was offered in a negotiation with the defendant to settle the client’s case, when in fact the settlement offer was by the client’s own attorney made upon the attorney’s evaluation, if true, represents a serious breach of duty to the client," Ramos wrote in New York Diet Drug Litigation, 700000/98.

According to Murakami, a major determinant in the size of a client’s share was whether he or she had retained Napoli Bern directly or been referred by another firm. Napoli Bern allegedly inflated the settlement payments of its direct clients because its fees from those clients would not be reduced by referral fees.

A hearing raises the possibility that the prior settlement could be modified or even vacated. The judge said the allocation of settlement

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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.