Continuous representation was once determined almost solely by the date of transfer of representation.  Either a consent to change attorney or a court order determined the last day of representation and hence the end of continuous representation.  Then came Aaron v. Roemer  which held that communications showing a total breakdown of the attorney-client relationship marked the end of continuous representation, even though the order came days later.  Those few days made a great difference.

Consolidated Edison Co. of N.Y., Inc. v Armienti,  Debellis & Whiten, LLP  2019 NY Slip Op 31123(U)  April 17, 2019  Supreme Court, New York County   Docket Number: 152730/2018
Judge: William Franc Perry reaches a similar conclusion, and, sub rosa holds that Con Ed would have lost for many other reasons as well.

“Under CPLR 214(6), a plaintiff must commence an action to recover damages for legal malpractice within three years from the date of the alleged malpractice. “The period of limitations in a legal malpractice action begins to run when the malprac~ice is committed … , not when the client discovers the injury/’ (Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc. v Zeichner, Ellman & Krause, LLP, 5 AD3d 128, 128-29 [1st Dept 2004] [internal citation omitted]). “A legal malpractice Claim accrues ‘when all the facts necessary to the cause of action have occurred and an injured party can obtain relief in court'” (McCoy v. Feinman, 99 N.Y.2d 295, 301 [2002], quoting Ackerman v. Price Waterhouse, 84 NY2d 535, 541 [1994]). “[W]hat is important is when the malpractice was committed, not when the client discovered it” (Hahn v Dewey & .LeBoeuf Liquidation Tr., 143 AD3d 547, 547 [1st Dept 2016] [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]).

Here, the actions giving rise to Con Edison’s claims for legal malpractice occurred in 2005 and 2006. Accordingly, to survive dismissal, Con Edison must establish that the statute of limitations was tolled pursuant to the continuous representation doctrine until at least March 27, 2015, which date is three years prior to Con Edison’s commencement of this action. The “continuous representation doctrine tolls the statute of limitations … where there is a mutual understanding of the need for further representation on the specific subject matter underlying the malpractice claim” (Zorn v Gilbert, 8 NY3d 933, 934 [2007], quoting McCoy v Feinman, 99 NY2d 295, 306 [2002]; see also Shumsky v Eisenstein, 96 NY2d 164, 167-168 [2001J). The purpose of the continuous representation doctrine is to avoid forcing a client to jeopardize the relationship with the attorney handling his or her case during the period that the attorney continues to represent them (Waggoner v Caruso, 68 AD3d 1, 7 [1st Dept 2009], af(d, 14 NY3d 874 [2010]). “An attorney-client relationship would certainly be jeopardized by a client’s allegation that his or her attorney committed   malpractice while representing the client” (id. [citation omitted]). The application of the continuous representation doctrine in an action for attorney malpractice “envisions a relationship between the parties that is marked with trust and confidence. It is a relationship which is not sporadic but developing and involves a continuity of the professional services from which the alleged malpractice stems” (Frenchman v Queller, Fisher, Dienst, Serrins, Washor & Kool, LLP, 24 Misc 3d 486, 498 [Sup Ct New York Cnty 2009], quoting Muller v Sturman, 79 AD2d 482, 486 [4th Dept 1981]; see Henry v Leeds & Morelli, 4 AD3d 229 [1st Dept 2004]). For the continuous representation doctrine to apply, “there must be clear indicia of an ongoing, continuous, developing, and dependent relationship between the client and the attorney which often includes an attempt by the attorney to rectify an alleged act of malpractice” (Luk Lamellen U Kupplungbau GmbH v Lerner, 166 AD2d 505, 507 [2d Dept 1990]).

Here, Armienti argues that Con Edison’s claims accrued, at the !atest, on March 24, 2015, three years after Everest and Con Edison directed Armienti to transfer the Casas file to Heidell and notified Armienti that Heidell would be taking over the defense of Con Edison in the Casas Action. Armienti further argues that a breakdown in the relationship of trust and confidence between Con Edison and Armienti is demonstrated by the two letters from Con Edison’s in-house counsel to Armienti in December of 2014, which letters requested all documents regarding the alleged acts constituting legal malpractice in this action, and challenged the propriety of Armienti’s discontinuance of the third-party action against Nelson in 2005. In opposition, Con Edison argues that Armienti’ s representation of Con Edison for purposes of the continuous representation doctrine continued until the execution of their Consent to Change Attorneys on April 13, 2015 (Complaint,

In a given case, the Consent to Change Attorney may reflect the erid date of an attorneyclient relationship, in the absence of other evidence that establishes an earlier date (see Louzoun v. Kroll Moss & Kroll, LLP, 113 A.D~3d at 602, 979 N.Y.S.2d 94 [2d Dept 2014]). While, “from the standpoint of adverse parties, counsel’s authority as an attorney of record in a civil action continues unabated until the [attorney’s] withdrawal, substitution, or discharge is formalized” in accordance with CPLR 321, “[a ]n affirmative discharge of an attorney by the client is immediate” (Farage v Ehrenberg, 124 AD3d 159, 165 [2d Dept 2014] [citations omitted]). Thus, where evidence establishes that a client affirmatively discharged their attorneys prior to the
execution of a Consent to Change Attorney, the Consent to Change Attorney does not, in and of itself, serve as a basis to toll the statute of limitations (see Frenchman v Queller, Fisher, Dienst, Serrins, Washor & Kool, LLP, 24 Misc 3d 486, 504-05 [Sup Ct New York Cnty 2009] [holding notice of substitution, signed by defendant on December 17, 2004, did not, in and of itself, serve as a basis to toll the statute of limitations under the continuous representation doctrine, where plaintiffs own letter to defendant in August of 2004 made clear that defendant was being replaced by other counsel]).”

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.