Client is injured.  Attorney is hired.  Attorney negotiates a rate of pay.  Must the attorney look to see whether the client has insurance, and if so, how hard does the attorney have to look?  Remember, if there is insurance there may be an insurance lawyer lurking and about to take over from the inquiring attorney.

Matz v Aboulafia Law Firm, LLC  2017 NY Slip Op 32147(U)  October 10, 2017  Supreme Court, New York County  Docket Number: 15506/2016
Judge: Kathryn E. Freed discusses this question.

“On July 23 and 24, 2011, the premises sustained damage due to electrical fires covered under the Marine Policy. Id., at pars. 19-20. On July 25, 2011, plaintiffs entered into a public adjuster compensation agreement with defendants Klein and Klein Inc. pursuant to which those defendants agreed to adjust the claims arising from the fires. Id., at par. 21. Klein and Klein Inc. were unable to resolve the claims. Id., at par. 22.

On or about July 11, 2013, Klein, Klein Inc., and Bauer recommended that plaintiffs retain defendants Aboulafia and the Aboulafia Firm to commence an action against Marine. Id., at par. 23. On or about July 18, 2013, plaintiffs retained Aboulafia and the Aboulafia Firm for this . purpose, and an action was commenced against Marine demanding damages of $300,000 on the ground that the company improperly refused to indemnify plaintiffs for the damages caused by the fires. Id., at par. 24. Defendants Klein, Klein Inc., and Bauer allegedly failed to inform Aboulafia and the Aboulafia Finn about the existence of the Technology Policy, despite the fact that they knew about the said policy and the action commenced on behalf of plaintiffs by Aboulafia and the Aboulafia Finn against Marine. Id., at p. 25. Although plaintiffs assert that their claims were worth approximately $140,000, Aboulafia and the Aboulafia Finn allegedly failed to act in their best interests by bringing a suit on their behalf as against TIC. Id., at par. 26. Thus, maintain plaintiffs, they were forced to settle their claims with Marine for an amount Jess than the full value thereof. Id., at pars. 27, 34. ”

“Construing the complaint in a light most favorable to plaintiffs, they have set forth a claim for legal malpractice”

“Whether an attorney has an obligation to investigate insurance coverage depends, in large part, on the scope of the agreed representation by the  attorney. See Shaya B. Pac., LLC v Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP, 38 AD3d 34 (2d Dept 2006). Here, since the retainer
agreement executed between plaintiffs and the Aboulafia firm, which constitutes “documentary evidence” within the purview of that section (see generally Fontanetta v John Doe 1, 73 AD3d 78, 84-85 [2d Dept 2010]), clearly limits the firm’s representation only to commencing a property
damage claim against Marine. Doc. 26. That agreement further provides that the Aboulafia Firm “is to do no further work on this claim other than starting a suit against [Marine]. If further work is required, a separate retainer agreement must be executed by [plaintiffs].” Id. Given the express limitation on the scope of the Aboulafia firm’s representation, plaintiffs’ claim that Aboulafia and/or the Aboulafia Firm should have taken further steps to investigate other possible insurance coverage is thus without merit. See Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR 1200.0) Rule
I .2(c). “

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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.