Yesterday we discussed the legal malpractice aspect of Billiard Balls Mgt. LLC v Mintzer Sarowitz Zeris  Ledva & Meyers, LLP  2018 NY Slip Op 32019(U)  August 17, 2018
Supreme Court, New York County  Docket Number: 153477/2016  Judge: Carol R. Edmead.  It was dismissed, mostly on the basis of lack of privity, backed up by lack of evidence of departure.

Here is the decision on contribution and indemnity:

“Pillinger argues that the common-law indemnification claim must be dismissed as Mintzer cannot be indemnified for its own negligence. In opposition, Mintzer argues broadly that it has stated a valid claim for common-law indemnification. It does not, however, make any specific response to Pillinger’s argument or defend its common-law indemnification claim with any detail.

Generally, common-law indemnification requires one party that is “actively at fault in bringing about the injury” to indemnify another party that “is held responsible solely by operation of law because of [its] relation to the actual wrongdoer” (McCarthy v Turner Constr., ‘”‘ Inc., 17 NY3d 369, 374, 375 [2011] [internal quotation marks and citation omitted]). Here, if Mintzer is found liable to Billiard Balls, it will necessarily be because it has been found liable for its own negligence, not because it was found liable solely by operation of law. Thus, as Mintzer does not state or have a cause of action against Pillinger for common-law indemnification, the branch of the motion that seeks dismissal of that claim must be granted.

The Third-party Complaint alleges that “if the Plaintiff sustained damages … and recovers judgment against Mintzer, such damages will have been brought about in whole or in part as a result of the actions and conduct of Pillinger” (Third-party Complaint, No. 45). Accordingly, Mintzer alleges that, in the event of a verdict in Billiard Balls’ favor, it “shall be entitled to contribution from Pillinger, for an equitable share of any such judgment on the basis of the comparative degree of culpability of [Pillinger]” (id.).

Pillinger contends that the claim for contribution must be dismissed, as it did not cause, contribute to, or share in Mintzer’s alleged malpractice. Mintzer mounts a more detailed opposition to this branch of the motion seeking dismissal of the contribution claim than it does for the other causes of action in the Third-party complaint.

Mintzer argues that Pillinger contributed to Billiard Balls’ alleged damages. Specifically, Mintzer contends that Pillinger failed to make a showing of a meritorious defense, in their opposition to Gershman’s motion for a default judgment, and that failure contributed to Billiard Balls’ damages. Mintzer also claims that Pillinger contributed to the delay to answer because the Second Department noted:
“While [Billiard Balls’ general manager] averred that Billiard did not attempt to
avoid interposing an Answer, he acknowledged that he did nothing with regard to
interposing an answer until after the motion for leave to enter judgment had been
served by the plaintiff, at which time there was still an approximately 30-day
delay between the service of the motion and the date of the verified answer. Thus,
the delay was not attributable to insurance carrier delay, but rather, resulted from
Billiard’s attempts and negotiations to alter the outcome of its insurance carrier’s
disclaimer. Under these circumstances, we find the excuse for Billiard’s default
unreasonable” “

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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.