Ragunandan v Donado  2017 NY Slip Op 04306 [150 AD3d 1289]  May 31, 2017
Appellate Division, Second Department is a case in which both sides moved for summary judgment.  In Supreme Court, the attorney won.  On appeal, both lost.  Case continues; defendant is more unhappy than is plaintiff.

“Ordered that the order is modified, on the law, by deleting the provision thereof granting the motion of the defendant Marco A. Lozada for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against him, and substituting therefor a provision denying the motion; as so modified, the order is affirmed, with costs to the plaintiff.

The plaintiff commenced this action to recover damages for legal malpractice against, among others, the defendant Marco A. Lozada (hereinafter the defendant), an attorney who represented her at a real estate closing. After discovery was completed, the defendant moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against him. The plaintiff cross-moved for summary judgment on the complaint. The Supreme Court granted the defendant’s motion and denied the plaintiff’s cross motion.

To recover damages for legal malpractice, a plaintiff must establish, first, that the defendant attorney failed to exercise the ordinary reasonable skill and knowledge commonly possessed by a member of the legal profession, and, second, that the defendant’s failure was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s damages (see Rudolf v Shayne, Dachs, Stanisci, Corker & Sauer, 8 NY3d 438, 442 [2007]; Atiencia v Pinczewski, 148 AD3d 860 [2017]). In moving for summary judgment dismissing a complaint alleging legal malpractice, the defendant must establish, prima facie, the plaintiff’s inability to prove at least one of these elements (see Rojas v Paine, 125 AD3d 745, 746 [2015]). If the defendant satisfies that burden, the burden then shifts to the plaintiff to rebut the defendant’s prima facie showing (see Montero v Cohen, 104 AD3d 654, 655 [2013]; cf. Stukas v Streiter, 83 AD3d 18, 23-24 [2011]).

Here, the defendant’s motion papers addressed only the second element of a legal malpractice cause of action, contending that any deficiency in his skill and knowledge was not a [*2]proximate cause of the plaintiff’s damages. The defendant failed to establish, prima facie, the absence of proximate cause. The fact that another person may have taken advantage of the defendant’s allegedly deficient performance to cause damages to the plaintiff did not, under the circumstances of this case, establish, prima facie, that the defendant’s alleged deficiencies were not also a proximate cause of her damages (see Overseas Shipholding Group, Inc. v Proskauer Rose, LLP, 130 AD3d 415, 415 [2015]; Utica Cutlery Co. v Hiscock & Barclay, LLP, 109 AD3d 1161, 1162 [2013]). In light of the defendant’s failure to satisfy his prima facie burden on his motion for summary judgment, the Supreme Court should have denied the motion without regard to the sufficiency of the plaintiff’s opposing papers (see Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Ctr., 64 NY2d 851, 853 [1985]; Rojas v Paine, 125 AD3d at 746).

The Supreme Court, however, properly denied the plaintiff’s cross motion for summary judgment on the complaint. The plaintiff failed to establish, prima facie, that the defendant failed to exercise the ordinary reasonable skill and knowledge commonly possessed by a member of the legal profession (see Schottland v Brown Harris Stevens Brooklyn, LLC, 137 AD3d 995, 996-997 [2016]; Conklin v Owen, 72 AD3d 1006, 1007 [2010]; Eisenberger v Septimus, 44 AD3d 994, 995 [2007]). In light of the plaintiff’s failure to satisfy her prima facie burden, we need not consider the sufficiency of the defendant’s opposing papers (see Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Ctr., 64 NY2d at 853). Eng, P.J., Rivera, Balkin and Barros, JJ., concur. ”

 

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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.