Last week we discussed how the First Department differs in its handling of Judiciary Law § 487 cases.  Here in Gorbatov v Tsirelman  2017 NY Slip Op 07979  Decided on November 15, 2017
Appellate Division, Second Department  is a further lesson, this time from the Second Department.  Conspicuously missing here is any language of delinquency.  The Second Department has considerably lower standards upon which to determine whether a JL § 487 case is tenable.

“The plaintiff Yevgeny Gorbatov is a licensed acupuncturist and the principal of the six corporate plaintiffs. The defendants Gary Tsirelman and the Law Office of Gary Tsirelman, P.C. (hereinafter together the Tsirelman defendants), and Leon Kucherovsky and the Law Office of Leon Kucherovsky, P.C. (hereinafter together the Kucherovsky defendants), are attorneys who represented some or all of the plaintiffs in hundreds of matters involving the collection of unpaid medical bills from insurers. The plaintiffs commenced this action against the defendants asserting causes of action [*2]to recover damages for legal malpractice, violation of Judiciary Law § 487, and unjust enrichment, and seeking accountings. The Tsirelman defendants and the Kucherovsky defendants separately moved pursuant to CPLR 3211(a) to dismiss the complaint insofar as asserted against each of them. In the alternative, the Kucherovsky defendants sought severance of the action insofar as asserted against them pursuant to CPLR 603. The Supreme Court denied the motions without prejudice and with leave to renew upon the completion of discovery, pursuant to CPLR 3211(d). The Tsirelman defendants and the Kucherovsky defendants separately appeal.”

“Contrary to the defendants’ contentions, the Supreme Court properly denied, without prejudice to renew upon the conclusion of discovery, those branches of their motions which were pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(1) and (7) to dismiss the legal malpractice and Judiciary Law § 487 causes of action. To plead a claim for legal malpractice, a plaintiff must allege (1) that the attorney failed to exercise the ordinary reasonable skill and knowledge commonly possessed by a member of the legal profession; and (2) that the attorney’s breach of this duty proximately caused plaintiff to sustain actual and ascertainable damages (see Nomura Asset Capital Corp. v Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, 26 NY3d 40, 49). “An attorney’s conduct or inaction is the proximate cause of a plaintiff’s damages if but for’ the attorney’s negligence the plaintiff would have succeeded on the merits of the underlying action, or would not have sustained actual and ascertainable damages” (id. at 50 [internal quotation marks and citation omitted]; see Dombrowski v Bulson, 19 NY3d 347, 350; AmBase Corp. v Davis Polk & Wardwell, 8 NY3d 428, 434). Under Judiciary Law § 487, an attorney who “[i]s guilty of any deceit or collusion, or consents to any deceit or collusion, with intent to deceive the court or any party; or . . . [w]ilfully delays his client’s suit with a view to his own gain; or, wilfully receives any money or allowance for or on account of any money which he has not laid out, or becomes answerable for, [i]s guilty of a misdemeanor, and [is liable for] treble damages, to be recovered in a civil action” (Judiciary Law § 487; see Amalfitano v Rosenberg, 12 NY3d 8, 14). “Allegations regarding an act of deceit or intent to deceive must be stated with particularity” (Facebook, Inc. v DLA Piper LLP [US], 134 AD3d 610, 615; see Putnam County Temple & Jewish Ctr., Inc. v Rhinebeck Sav. Bank, 87 AD3d 1118, 1120). “[V]iolation of Judiciary Law § 487 requires an intent to deceive, whereas a legal malpractice claim is based on negligent conduct” (Moormann v Perini & Hoerger, 65 AD3d 1106, 1108 [citation omitted]).

Here, the complaint, as amplified by the plaintiffs’ submissions in opposition to the defendants’ motions (see Chanko v American Broadcasting Cos. Inc., 27 NY3d 46, 52), alleged that the defendants conspired with the plaintiffs’ billing agent, nonparty Gary Shikman and his company the Denium Group, to convert funds received from insurers in recovery of the plaintiffs’ claims, or violated their duties to ensure that the plaintiffs received the funds, resulting in the plaintiffs incurring losses of those funds, and otherwise improperly handled the plaintiffs’ claims. These allegations generally state causes of action sounding in legal malpractice (see Nomura Asset Capital Corp. v Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, 26 NY3d at 49; Rules of Professional Conduct [22 NYCRR 1200.0)] rule 1.15[c][4]), and violation of Judiciary Law § 487 (see Melcher v Greenberg Traurig, LLP, 23 NY3d 10, 14; cf. Gumarova v Law Offs. of Paul A. Boronow, P.C., 129 AD3d 911, 912). Further, the affidavits, letters, and spreadsheets submitted by the defendants in support of their motions did not constitute documentary evidence pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(1) (see Cives Corp. v George A. Fuller Co., Inc., 97 AD3d 713, 714; Berger v Temple Beth-El of Great Neck, 303 AD2d 346, 347), and, in any event, did not conclusively establish a lack of legal malpractice or deception. [*3]To the extent that the plaintiffs’ allegations are insufficiently specific to each legal matter or particularized, the plaintiffs set forth a reasonable basis to believe that, with additional discovery, they would be able to develop sufficient facts to make more specific allegations (see Lemle v Lemle, 92 AD3d 494, 499-500). Facts essential to the opposition of the motions were in the possession of the defendants, warranting denial of these branches of the motions without prejudice and with leave to renew upon the completion of discovery (see CPLR 3211[d]; Peterson v Spartan Indus., 33 NY2d 463, 466; Giunta’s Meat Farms, Inc. v Pina Constr. Corp., 89 AD3d 799, 800).

 

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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 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.