It is even harder to bring a successful legal malpractice case against the divorce attorney when the matter was settled.  Holtzman v Griffith  2018 NY Slip Op 04540  Decided on June 20, 2018
Appellate Division, Second Department, aside from its lesson on “account stated” tells us that a legal malpractice claim from a settled divorce action has many hurdles to jump.

“In January 2009, the defendant retained the plaintiff to represent him in a divorce action commenced against him by his former wife. The divorce action culminated in a settlement. The plaintiff represented the defendant from January 2009 through June 2011, and periodically sent invoices to the defendant for legal services rendered in accordance with a retainer agreement executed by the defendant. The defendant received the invoices and made payments with respect thereto through October 22, 2010. Thereafter, he made no further payments to the plaintiff. When the defendant discharged the plaintiff in June 2011, there were outstanding invoices in the total sum of $18,581.50. The plaintiff commenced this action, inter alia, to recover on an account stated. The defendant answered and interposed counterclaims alleging legal malpractice against the plaintiff. The plaintiff moved for summary judgment on the cause of action for an account stated and dismissing the defendant’s counterclaims. The Supreme Court granted the motion, and the defendant appeals.”

“Here, the plaintiff demonstrated her prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on the cause of action to recover legal fees on an account stated in the amount of $18,581.50, with interest from July 11, 2011 (see Bashian & Farber, LLP v Syms, 147 AD3d at 715). In opposition, the defendant failed to raise a triable issue of fact (see Langione, Catterson & Lofrumento, LLP v Schael, 148 AD3d 797). The plaintiff also demonstrated her prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing the defendant’s counterclaims. The plaintiff’s submissions demonstrated that in representing the defendant, who was also the defendant in the divorce action, she exercised the ordinary reasonable skill and knowledge commonly possessed by a member of the legal profession, and that the stipulation of settlement executed by the defendant in the divorce action was not the product of any mistakes by the plaintiff (see Schiff v Sallah Law Firm, P.C., 128 AD3d 668, 669). The stipulation of settlement recited, among other things, that the defendant reviewed and understood its terms, had an opportunity to consult with counsel and have the legal and practical effect of the stipulation fully explained to him, executed the stipulation voluntarily, without coercion or pressure of any kind, and believed the stipulation to be fair and reasonable (see Chamberlain, D’Amanda, Oppenheimer & Greenfield, LLP v Wilson, 136 AD3d 1326, 1328; Schiff v Sallah Law Firm, P.C., 128 AD3d at 669). In opposition, the defendant failed to raise a triable issue of fact.

Accordingly, we agree with the Supreme Court’s determination to grant the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the cause of action for an account stated and dismissing the defendant’s counterclaims.”

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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.