Most people fixate on the first element of legal malpractice – departure from good practice.  Leeder v Antonucci  2019 NY Slip Op 05898  Decided on July 31, 2019
Appellate Division, Fourth Department looks at the last of the elements – ascertainable damages, as well as examines continuous representation in a statute of limitations setting.

“We reject plaintiff’s contention that Supreme Court erred in granting the cross motion with respect to the biofuel cause of action. It is well settled that “a necessary element of a cause of action for legal malpractice is that the attorney’s negligence caused a loss that resulted in actual and ascertainable damages’ ” (New Kayak Pool Corp. v Kavinoky Cook LLP, 125 AD3d 1346, 1348 [4th Dept 2015]), and that ” [c]onclusory allegations of damages or injuries predicated on speculation cannot suffice for a malpractice action’ ” (id.). With respect to the biofuel cause of action, defendant met his initial burden on the cross motion by establishing that plaintiff’s allegations of damages are entirely speculative (see Lincoln Trust v Spaziano, 118 AD3d 1399, 1401 [4th Dept 2014]; Bua v Purcell & Ingrao, P.C., 99 AD3d 843, 848 [2d Dept 2012], lv denied 20 NY3d 857 [2013]), and thus plaintiff is “unable to prove at least one of the essential elements of [his] legal malpractice cause of action” (Boglia v Greenberg, 63 AD3d 973, 974 [2d Dept 2009]; see Grace v Law, 108 AD3d 1173, 1174-1175 [4th Dept 2013], affd 24 NY3d 203 [2014]). Plaintiff failed to raise an issue of fact in opposition (see generally Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562 [1980]). We are unable to review plaintiff’s contention that he raised a triable issue of fact with respect to those damages by submitting an expert report inasmuch as plaintiff failed to include that document in the record on appeal. Thus plaintiff, as the party raising this issue on his appeal, “submitted this appeal on an incomplete record and must suffer the consequences” (Matter of Santoshia L., 202 AD2d 1027, 1028 [4th Dept 1994]; see Resetarits Constr. Corp. v City of Niagara Falls, 133 AD3d 1229, 1229 [4th Dept 2015]).

We agree with plaintiff, however, that the court erred in granting the cross motion with respect to the estate cause of action, and we therefore modify the order and judgment [*2]accordingly. In that cause of action, plaintiff alleged that defendant committed malpractice by failing to timely file objections to the proposed accounting. It is well settled that “[a] cause of action for legal malpractice accrues when the malpractice is committed” (Elstein v Phillips Lytle, LLP, 108 AD3d 1073, 1073 [4th Dept 2013] [internal quotation marks omitted]), and that, “[w]hat is important [in determining the accrual date] is when the malpractice was committed, not when the client discovered it” (Glamm v Allen, 57 NY2d 87, 95 [1982]; see Town of Amherst v Weiss, 120 AD3d 1550, 1551 [4th Dept 2014]). Defendant met his burden on that part of the cross motion by establishing that the statute of limitations for legal malpractice is three years (see CPLR 214 [6]), that the estate cause of action accrued on November 1, 2010, the last date on which to file objections to the accounting (see generally International Electron Devices [USA] LLC v Menter, Rudin & Trivelpiece, P.C., 71 AD3d 1512, 1512 [4th Dept 2010]), and that the estate cause of action was therefore untimely when this malpractice action was commenced on November 15, 2013. “The burden then shifted to plaintiff[] to raise a triable issue of fact whether the statute of limitations was tolled by the continuous representation doctrine” (id. at 1512; see Mahran v Berger, 137 AD3d 1643, 1644 [4th Dept 2016]; Weiss, 120 AD3d at 1551).

We agree with plaintiff that the court erred in determining that plaintiff failed to do so. It is well settled that, in order for the continuous representation doctrine to apply, “there must be clear indicia of an ongoing, continuous, developing, and dependant 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, 506-507 [2d Dept 1990]; see Dischiavi v Calli, 125 AD3d 1435, 1437 [4th Dept 2015]; Weiss, 120 AD3d at 1551-1552). Here, plaintiff submitted evidence that defendant made several unsuccessful attempts to file the objections within the weeks after the deadline and that he made preparations to appear at a scheduled conference on the objections on November 23, 2010. Those efforts could be viewed as “attempt[s] by the attorney to rectify an alleged act of malpractice” (Luk Lamellen U. Kupplungbau GmbH, 166 AD2d at 506-507), and thus plaintiff raised a triable issue of fact whether the statute of limitations was tolled by the continuous representation doctrine.”

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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.