Statutes of repose, statutes of limitation, procedural statutes of limitation, statutes which “merely suspend[s] the remedy.”  Confused yet?

That question led to a dismissed legal malpractice case concerning whether California Code of Civil Procedure § 366.3 is a statute of limitation.  The question came up in Matter of Cassini Decided on February 13, 2020 Appellate Division, Second Department.

“This appeal is one of several arising out of a protracted and vigorously contested probate proceeding involving the estate of the internationally renowned fashion designer Oleg Cassini (hereinafter the decedent), who died in March 2006. In 1952, the decedent and his then-wife Gene Tierney entered into a “Property Settlement Agreement” (hereinafter the PSA) that was incorporated by reference into a California final judgment of divorce entered April 7, 1953. In the PSA, the decedent agreed to leave by testamentary disposition at least one-half of his net estate to his daughters Daria Cassini (hereinafter Daria) and Christina Cassini (hereinafter Christina), in equal portions. Pursuant to a choice-of-law provision, the PSA was to be construed and interpreted in accordance with California law.

The decedent’s last will and testament did not include testamentary dispositions leaving at least one-half of his net estate to Daria and Christina. After the decedent died in 2006, Marianne Nestor Cassini (hereinafter Marianne), the decedent’s widow, was issued letters testamentary as the executor of his estate. Christina filed a claim asserting her entitlement to 25% of the decedent’s net estate, and petitioned for a determination as to the validity and enforceability of her claim. Marianne moved to dismiss Christina’s claim, and Christina cross-moved for summary judgment on the issue of liability. The Surrogate’s Court, inter alia, granted Christina’s cross motion for summary judgment, and this Court affirmed (see Matter of Cassini, 95 AD3d 1311).

Marianne subsequently commenced an action to recover damages for legal malpractice in the Supreme Court based, inter alia, on the failure of the estate’s attorneys to raise in the Surrogate’s Court proceeding the defense that Christina’s claim was barred by California Code of Civil Procedure § 366.3. That statute provides that actions to enforce claims arising from a promise or agreement with a decedent to distribution from an estate may be commenced within one year after the date of death (see Cal Code Civ Proc § 366.3[a]). In a decision and order dated August 23, 2017, this Court affirmed the grant of a motion pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7) to dismiss portions of the legal malpractice complaint (see Nestor v Putney Twombly Hall & Hirson, LLP, 153 AD3d 840). In doing so, this Court concluded that California Code of Civil Procedure § 366.3 is a procedural statute of limitations, and not a statute of repose, and thus was inapplicable to the Surrogate’s Court proceeding in New York (see Nestor v Putney Twombly Hall & Hirson, LLP, 153 AD3d at 842-843). Accordingly, this Court concluded that raising that statute in the Surrogate’s Court proceeding would not have resulted in a determination that Christina’s claim was barred (see id. at 842).”

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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…

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.