This case is the sad story of bad medicine, bad guardianships and death. Sutch v Sutch-Lenz
2015 NY Slip Op 04692  Decided on June 4, 2015  Appellate Division, Third Department.  It starts off with medical malpractice, the death of a father-husband in a flight school training accident, success in the medical malpractice and a money quarrel between mother and son. None of it is good.  Plaintiff’s problem is the lack of privity.

“In 1996, plaintiff’s mother, defendant Debera C. Sutch-Lenz, and father, Alfred Sutch (hereinafter decedent), commenced a medical malpractice action based upon injuries allegedly sustained by Sutch-Lenz while undergoing breast reduction surgery. Defendants William J. Cade and Cade & Saunders, P.C. (hereinafter collectively referred to as defendants) ultimately came to represent Sutch-Lenz and decedent in that action. In March 2000, prior to the trial of the medical malpractice matter, decedent was killed in a light plane crash in Saratoga County and, in April 2000, Sutch-Lenz was granted limited letters of administration for purposes of pursuing both decedent’s derivative claim in the context of the medical malpractice action and a wrongful death action. The medical malpractice action subsequently proceeded to trial and, by judgment entered in August 2001, decedent’s estate was awarded $100,000 on his derivative claim (Sutch v Yarinsky, 292 AD2d 715 [2002]).”

In the interim, Sutch-Lenz, in her capacity as the administrator of decedent’s estate and while represented by defendants, commenced a wrongful death action against the aircraft’s manufacturer and the flight school where decedent had been taking lessons. A proposed settlement of that action subsequently was reached and, in conjunction therewith, Supreme Court appointed defendant James G. Snyder to serve as guardian ad litem for plaintiff (born in 1993) and his sister, Jessica Sutch (born in 1989). After reviewing the proposed distribution, Snyder issued a report to Supreme Court recommending that the settlement be approved. Supreme Court thereafter authorized Sutch-Lenz to settle the wrongful death action,[FN1] and plaintiff’s share of the proceeds was used to purchase annuities in his name.

There is no question that a legal malpractice claim requires — in the first instance — “the existence of an attorney-client relationship” (Arnold v Devane, 123 AD3d 1202, 1203 [2014]). Plaintiff does not contend, and the record does not otherwise reflect, that he had a contractual relationship with defendants. Rather, plaintiff argues that because defendants represented Sutch-Lenz in her capacity as the administrator of decedent’s estate in both the medical malpractice and wrongful death actions and plaintiff, in turn, is a beneficiary of decedent’s estate, it necessarily follows that defendants were duty bound to represent plaintiff’s best interests in the context of those two actions. The flaw in plaintiff’s argument on this point is that “[i]n New York, a third party, without privity, cannot maintain a claim against an attorney in professional negligence, absent fraud, collusion, malicious acts or other special circumstances” (Estate of Schneider v Finmann, 15 NY3d 306, 308-309 [2010] [internal quotation marks and citation omitted]; accord Zinnanti v 513 Woodward Ave. Realty, LLC, 105 AD3d 736, 737 [2013]; cf. Leff v Fulbright & Jaworski, L.L.P., 78 AD3d 531, 532 [2010],lv denied 17 NY3d 705 [2011]). Although a limited exception has been carved out with respect to an action brought by the personal representative of an estate, “strict privity remains a bar against beneficiaries’ and other third-party individuals’ estate planning malpractice claims absent fraud or other circumstances” (Estate of Schneider v Finmann, 15 NY3d at 310; see Leff v Fulbright & Jaworski, L.L.P., 78 AD3d at 532).”

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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.