The primary lesson to be learned from Salans LLP v VBH Props. S.R.L.  2019 NY Slip Op 02611 Decided on April 4, 2019 Appellate Division, First Department is that courts will deem a studied prediction on what would have happened if counsel had actually gone to court and made certain arguments is that they will almost always call it “speculation” and dismiss a legal malpractice case.

The second less to learn is that limited scope retainer agreements are permissible, but ambiguous ones are construed in favor of the client.  Lastly, representing the president and the company at the same time is permissible sometimes.

“Contrary to plaintiff’s argument, the scope of the work it performed under the 2008 retainer agreement, which included not only numerous contracts and negotiations but also employment litigation in the U.K., makes it at least reasonable to construe the agreement as authorizing plaintiff to represent Luxury and Hoeksema in the underlying loan action (see Shaw v Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co., 68 NY2d 172, 177 [1986] [where there is ambiguity in retention agreement, agreement is construed in favor of client]).

However, plaintiff demonstrated prima facie entitlement to judgment in the legal malpractice counterclaim by showing that defendants could not prove that but for plaintiff’s failure to appear at the TRO hearing the hearing court would have denied the TRO or set a shorter return date (see Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP v Fashion Boutique of Short Hills, Inc., 10 AD3d 267, 272 [1st Dept 2004] [holding that to establish a claim for litigation malpractice the client “must meet the case within a case’ requirement, demonstrating that but for’ the attorney’s conduct the client would have prevailed in the underlying matter or would not have sustained any ascertainable damages”]). Defendants speculate that had plaintiff appeared at the TRO hearing, injunctive relief may have been denied or the hearing court may have adjourned the case to an earlier date. Such speculation is insufficient to sustain a claim for legal malpractice (see Freeman v Brecher, 155 AD3d 453, 453 [1st Dept 2017]; Brooks v Lewin, 21 AD3d 731, 734-735 [1st Dept 2005], lv denied 6 NY3d 713 [2006]).”

“Luxury and Hoeksema contend that there is a conflict of interest in plaintiff’s [*2]representation of both of them. However, as Hoeksema is the sole owner, director and officer of Luxury, there is no conflict (see Topic: Concurrent Representation of Corporation and Sole Shareholder, Director and Officer (NY St Bar Assn Comm on Prof Ethics Op 868 [May 31, 2011]). Moreover, Luxury and Hoeksema failed to show any injury caused by the alleged conflict.”

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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.