Clients claim that attorney forged their names on settlement documents, then stole money.  They sue attorney, get judgment, and then lost any ability to collect, when carrier successfully disclaims and wins a collection case brought by the cleints against the carrier. Wiley Rein, LLP reports:

The Supreme Court of Nebraska has held that misappropriation and dishonesty exclusions in a lawyers professional liability policy barred an attorney’s former clients from executing legal malpractice judgments against the insurer that issued the policy. Fokken v. Steichen, 2008 WL 62539 (Neb. Jan. 4, 2008).

Several of the attorney’s former clients accused him of settling their tort claims without their approval by signing their signatures on release agreements and settlement checks without their authorization. The former clients also asserted that they had not received any of the settlement proceeds from the attorney. Furthermore, the former clients alleged that the attorney (1) failed to communicate with them regarding the defendants’ settlement offers; (2) accepted the settlement offers on their behalf without obtaining their consent; (3) allowed their tort claims to be dismissed with prejudice after the statute of limitations had expired; and (4) breached fiduciary duties owed to them. The former clients won malpractice judgments against the attorney and then instituted garnishment proceedings against the attorney’s insurer, and the parties cross-moved for summary judgment.

In granting the insurer’s motion for summary judgment, the court first observed that the former clients’ garnishment claims against the policy proceeds depended on whether the insurer would have been obligated to indemnify the attorney for the malpractice judgments in the first place because "the claim of a judgment creditor garnishor against a garnishee can rise no higher than the claim of the garnishor’s judgment debtor against the garnishee." The court next considered the former clients’ argument that "where an insurance company is notified of a pending suit against an insured and has a full opportunity to defend the action, the judgment against the insured, if obtained without fraud or collusion, will be conclusive against the insurance company." The court rejected this contention, explaining that the insurer was not challenging the malpractice judgments but was instead contending that the judgments were not covered by the policy. "

Email this postTweet this postLike this postShare this post on LinkedIn
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.