Sadly, there are a substantial number of legal malpractice cases brought by pro-se litigants.  While legal malpractice cases suffer a disproportionately high rate of dismissal  in all settings, in the pro-se area the dismissal rates are very high.  Knobel v Wei Group, LLP  2018 NY Slip Op 02292
Decided on April 3, 2018 Appellate Division, First Department is an example of the phenomenon.  The corporate plaintiff is dismissed for having no attorney, and the individual plaintiff suffers a similar fate.

“The motion court correctly dismissed, as a nullity, the claims of the corporate plaintiff, because the corporate plaintiff lacked representation by a licensed attorney when it brought the claims (seeCPLR 321[a]; Jimenez v Brenillee Corp., 48 AD3d 351, 352 [1st Dept 2008]).

The motion court correctly dismissed the claims against defendant Wei Group, LLP, as personal service of process was not properly effectuated with respect to this limited liability partnership (seeCPLR 310-a).

Plaintiffs failed to state a cause of action for fraud, as they never alleged that they paid the allegedly fraudulent bills and suffered injury as a result (see Small v Lorillard Tobacco Co., 94 NY2d 43, 57 [1999]).

The motion court correctly determined that the legal malpractice claim is barred by the three-year statute of limitations (see CPLR 214[6]). No triable issue of fact exists as to whether the doctrine of continuous representation tolled the statute of limitations. It is undisputed that on March 12, 2012, plantiff Steven M. Knobel sent defendant Eric Wei an email directing Wei “to cease all [ ] work” and that shortly thereafter, Knobel sent an email to the court indicating his desire to appear pro se. Contrary to plaintiffs’ contention, there is no indication of “an ongoing, continuous, developing and dependent relationship between the client and the attorney” or a “mutual understanding of the need for further representation on the specific subject matter underlying the malpractice claim” after March 12, 2012 (Matter of Merker, 18 AD3d 332, 332-333 [1st Dept 2005] [internal quotation marks omitted]).

Plaintiffs’ argument that the billing invoices show that defendants continued to represent them up until and after March 19, 2012 is unpersuasive. The invoices in the record do not indicate that after March 12, 2012 defendants performed any substantive legal work or provided any legal advice on the matters which plaintiffs allege defendants committed malpractice (see Shumsky v Eisenstein, 96 NY2d 164, 168 [2001]). Rather, the invoices show that plaintiffs were billed for work pertaining to communications with the court, client, and subsequent counsel, [*2]which did not toll the statute of limitations (see Rupolo v Fish, 87 AD3d 684, 685 [2d Dept 2011]).”

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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.