Urias v Daniel P. Buttafuoco & Assoc., PLLC  2019 NY Slip Op 05180 Decided on June 26, 2019 Appellate Division, Second Department speaks about Judiciary Law § 487 and legal malpractice.  In this summary judgment case, the legal malpractice claims remain in view of opposing experts.  The JL claims are dismissed.

“The plaintiff commenced this action, inter alia, to recover damages for legal malpractice. The defendants Daniel P. Buttafuoco & Associates, PLLC, and Daniel P. Buttafuoco (hereinafter together the Buttafuoco defendants) represented the plaintiff in a medical malpractice action in Suffolk County, which resulted in a settlement agreement, and in which the Buttafuoco defendants were awarded a certain sum of attorney’s fees that was confirmed by the Supreme Court, Suffolk County. The defendant John Newman represented the plaintiff in a guardianship proceeding in Nassau County, which also resulted in an approval of the settlement and award of attorney’s fees in the medical malpractice action by the Supreme Court, Nassau County. In this action, the plaintiff alleges, among other things, that the Buttafuoco defendants and Newman were negligent in their representation of the plaintiff and that the Buttafuoco defendants committed fraud and violated [*2]Judiciary Law § 487 with respect to their recovery of attorney’s fees. The first through fifth causes of action seek damages from the Buttafuoco defendants, alleging a violation of Judiciary Law § 487, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of the retainer agreement, conversion of the settlement proceeds and fraud, and fraud, respectively. The sixth cause of action seeks damages from the Buttafuoco defendants and Newman for legal malpractice.”

“The second and third causes of action, which allege breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract, respectively, were duplicative of the legal malpractice cause of action, since those causes of action are based on the same facts and do not allege distinct damages (see Pacella v Town of Newburgh Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Inc., 164 AD3d 809, 814; Balan v Rooney, 152 AD3d 733, 734; Ferrigno v Jaghab, Jaghab & Jaghab, P.C., 152 AD3d 650, 654; Federico v Brancato, 144 AD3d 965, 967). In addition, the first, fourth, and fifth causes of action, alleging a violation of Judiciary Law § 487, conversion of the settlement proceeds and fraud, and fraud, respectively, concern whether the Buttafuoco defendants engaged in fraudulent conduct in obtaining an award of attorney’s fees in the medical malpractice action. The plaintiff’s remedy for those alleged acts “lies exclusively in that lawsuit itself, i.e., by moving pursuant to CPLR 5015 to vacate the civil judgment due to its fraudulent procurement, not a second plenary action collaterally attacking the judgment in the original action” (Yalkowsky v Century Apts. Assoc., 215 AD2d 214, 215; see Chibcha Rest., Inc. v David A. Kaminsky & Assoc., P.C., 102 AD3d 544, 545; Parker & Waichman v Napoli, 29 AD3d 396, 399; North Shore Envtl. Solutions, Inc. v Glass, 17 AD3d 427). Accordingly, we agree with the Supreme Court’s determination granting those branches of the Buttafuoco defendants’ motion which were for summary judgment dismissing the first through fifth causes of action, and denying those branches of the plaintiff’s cross motion which were for summary judgment on the issue of liability on the second and third causes of action.

We also agree with the Supreme Court’s determination denying that branch of the plaintiff’s cross motion which was for summary judgment on the sixth cause of action, to recover damages for legal malpractice, insofar as asserted against the Buttafuoco defendants. There are conflicting opinions in the expert affirmations as to whether the Buttafuoco defendants failed to exercise the degree of reasonable skill and competence commonly possessed by an ordinary member of the legal profession and thereby caused harm to the plaintiff (see generally 762 Westchester Ave. Realty, LLC v Mavrelis, 167 AD3d 684, 685; Landa v Blocker, 87 AD3d 719, 722; Scartozzi v Potruch, 72 AD3d 787, 788).”

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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.