In this Case  Egnotovich v. Katten Muchin Zavis & Roseman LLP, 604101/06 , Decided January 23, 2008 ,Justice Bernard J. Fried
NEW YORK COUNTY ,Supreme Court     Plaintiffs joined a vacation club in which they each deposited $ 400,000, and the group was to purchase or lease apartments or houses in prime vacatiion spots.  These spots included Paris, Mexico, Teluride, and other hot spots.  More than $1.6 million was collected, and the Katten law firm drafted escrow agreements in which it was to hold 80% of the collections and pay them out when the club gave the law firm vouchers.  The money was collected and paid out.

For reasons unstated [bad locations? no houses actually available?] some of the members sue the law firm for fraud and escrow violations.  "Plaintiffs are former founding members of nonparty Havens, Inc. (Havens), a resort destination club in the business of acquiring vacation properties to be used by the club members. Funding for these property acquisitions was to be generated principally through the financial contributions of the founding members. To become founding members, plaintiffs were required to sign a membership agreement, and to pay $150,000 in membership dues. A portion of the membership dues was to be held as a deposit in escrow. Defendant Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, sued here as Katten Muchin Zavis & Roseman LLP (Katten), acted as escrow agent for the escrow account. In 2006, Havens failed as a going concern, and is now apparently without funds to pay damages suffered by plaintiffs. Plaintiffs then brought this action against Katten seeking return of their deposits, and alleging wrongful release of escrowed funds and furtherance of fraud by the club’s sponsors. Katten now moves for summary judgment dismissing the amended complaint1 on the ground that it fails to state a cause of action, and is contradicted by clear and unambiguous documentary evidence.

For the reasons set forth below, Katten’s motion is granted. "

"absolutely secured were not collateral to the Membership Documents (see e.g. Martian Entertainment , LLC v. Harris, 12 Misc 3d 1190[A], * 5 [representations underlying fraudulent inducement claim must be "collateral to the contract"]). To the contrary, the degree of security backing the Deposits is expressly provided by the Certificates (see Certificate, ¶1 [the membership deposits are subject to refund 30 years from the date of the Certificate and "pursuant to and subject to the terms and conditions of the Membership Agreement and the Membership Plan]"; id., ¶2 [the refund right "is backed by and subject to the availability of the assets of (Havens)"]). Indeed, it is plaintiffs’ own position that each of the Membership Documents "discusses Deposits and their use and repayment . . . and thereby implicates use of an escrow" (Pls Facts, ¶¶2, 4, 6). An issue "central" to a contract cannot be construed as collateral to that contract (PSI Intl., Inc. v. Ottimo, 272 AD2d 279 [1st Dept 2000]).

Moreover, even fraudulent inducement requires "misrepresentations of present Facts (rather than merely of future intent)" (Martian Entertainment, LLC v. Harris, 12 Misc 3d 1190[A], * 5). Plaintiffs allege that Havens promised that "deposits would be handled in a specified way," that they "would be held in escrow . . . for the protection and benefit of the Founding Members," and that "[Founding Members] would be protected by the continuing existence of cash on deposit or real estate available to fund repayment if the venture failed" (Opp Br., at 24, 25 [emphasis added]; Egnotovich Aff., ¶6 [emphasis added]; see also Loeb Aff., ¶¶4-5). To the extent, if any, that these representations made by Havens are untrue, they are broken promises, and not fraudulent statements of fact (see e.g. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP v., Inc., 14 Misc 3d 1224[A], 2007 NY Slip Op 50149[U], *7 [Sup Ct, NY County 2007] [dismissing counterclaim that plaintiff "fraudulently induced (defendant) into entering the engagement letter by stating that (plaintiff) would be personally involved in handling the IPO, that the fees would be capped at $425,000, that the IPO would be consummated by March 2005 and that the legal fees charged would be limited to work on the IPO"] [emphasis added]; Ullmann v. Norma Kamali, Inc., 207 AD2d 691, 692-693 [1st Dept 1994] ["cause of action for fraud does not arise" based on "failure to perform promises of future acts"] [citation omitted]).

Consequently, the aiding and abetting fraud claim must be dismissed."

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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.