It is the rare legal malpractice case that falls into the privity exception.  As a matter of social policy and definitely to limit legal malpractice cases, Courts impose a very strict privity requirement.  No attorney-client relationship, no legal malpractice case, with a small exception for fraud or malice. Webster v Sherman  2018 NY Slip Op 06590  Decided on October 3, 2018  Appellate Division, Second Department does fall into this small crack.  However, even so, plaintiff was not afforded any continuous representation tolling.

“This action arises out of a 1995 agreement between the plaintiff and the defendant Rochelle Sherman (hereinafter Rochelle) pursuant to which Rochelle agreed to transfer half of her shares in Garden Care Center, Inc. (hereinafter Garden Care), to the plaintiff. Garden Care operated a nursing home, so governmental approval for the transfer of ownership was required. In connection with the proposed transfer, the plaintiff and Rochelle entered into an escrow agreement on or about April 1, 2003, in which the defendant, Tenzer and Lunin, LLP (hereinafter T & L), was appointed to act as the escrow agent.

Conditional approval of the transfer of Rochelle’s shares to the plaintiff was granted by the New York State Public Health Council in a letter dated November 19, 2003. T & L was instructed that to complete the requirements for certification approval, it had to contact the regional office of the New York State Office of Health Systems Management within 30 days of receipt of the letter. In a follow-up letter to T & L dated December 5, 2005, the New York State Department of Health (hereinafter DOH) noted that the regional office had not been contacted and that the project would be considered abandoned unless T & L provided to the DOH documentation that the regional office was contacted within 30 days from the date of the follow-up letter. By letter dated January 11, 2006, T & L informed the DOH that the closing of the transfer had not taken place because the consent of the other shareholders of Garden Care, as well as the consent of Garden Care’s lender, had not been obtained. In March 2006, the DOH notified T & L that it considered the transfer application abandoned.”

“With respect to the cause of action alleging legal malpractice, although the Supreme Court properly determined that there was no attorney-client relationship between the plaintiff and T & L (see Lindsay v Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano LLP, 129 AD3d 790, 792; Lombardi v Lombardi, 127 AD3d 1038, 1042; Terio v Spodek, 63 AD3d 719, 721), the second amended complaint set forth a cause of action which fell “within the narrow exception of fraud, collusion, malicious acts or other special circumstances under which a cause of action alleging attorney malpractice may be asserted absent a showing of privity” (Mr. San, LLC v Zucker & Kwestel, LLP, 112 AD3d 796, 797 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Ginsburg Dev. Cos., LLC v Carbone, 85 AD3d 1110, 1112).”

“The statute of limitations for a cause of action alleging legal malpractice is three years [*3]from the accrual of the cause of action (see CPLR 214[6]; Quinn v McCabe, Collins, McGeough & Fowler, LLP, 138 AD3d 1085, 1086; Farage v Ehrenberg, 124 AD3d 159, 163). “Accrual is measured from the commission of the alleged malpractice, when all facts necessary to the cause of action have occurred and the aggrieved party can obtain relief in court . . . regardless of when the operative facts are discovered by the plaintiff” (Farage v Ehrenberg, 124 AD3d at 164 [internal citations omitted]; see McCoy v Feinman, 99 NY2d 295, 301; Quinn v McCabe, Collins, McGeough & Fowler, LLP, 138 AD3d at 1086).

However, legal malpractice claims which would otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations are timely if the doctrine of continuous representation applies (see Glamm v Allen, 57 NY2d 87, 91-94; Alizio v Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, P.C., 126 AD3d 733, 735; Farage v Ehrenberg, 124 AD3d at 164), in which case the three-year statute of limitations is tolled for the period following the alleged malpractice “until the attorney’s continuing representation of the client on a particular matter is completed” (Farage v Ehrenberg, 124 AD3d at 164; see Zorn v Gilbert, 8 NY3d 933, 934; Glamm v Allen, 57 NY2d at 93). For the doctrine of continuous representation to apply, there must be clear indicia of “an ongoing, continuous, developing, and dependent relationship between the client and the attorney” (Aseel v Jonathan E. Kroll & Assoc., PLLC, 106 AD3d 1037, 1038 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Farage v Ehrenberg, 124 AD3d at 164).

Here, T & L met its prima facie burden by establishing that the last date of the alleged malpractice occurred on January 11, 2006, and the action against it was not commenced until February 6, 2013 (see 3rd & 6th, LLC v Berg, 149 AD3d 794, 795; Aseel v Jonathan E. Kroll & Assoc., PLLC, 106 AD3d at 1038). In opposition, the plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether continuous representation tolled the statute of limitations (see 3rd & 6th, LLC v Berg, 149 AD3d at 795-796; Quinn v McCabe, Collins, McGeough & Fowler, LLP, 138 AD3d at 1087).”

Email this postTweet this postLike this postShare this post on LinkedIn
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.