The Second Department rarely reverses summary judgment in a legal malpractice setting.  Of that subset of rare reversals, matrimonial legal malpractice is a very small portion.  Nevertheless, in Lauder v Goldhamer
2020 NY Slip Op 01152 Decided on February 19, 2020 Appellate Division, Second Department appellant won all around.

“The plaintiff commenced this action alleging, inter alia, that the defendants committed legal malpractice in the prosecution of an underlying matrimonial action. The plaintiff alleged, among other things, that the defendants’ lack of preparation, as well as the misinformation and faulty legal advice they supplied to her, resulted in an unfavorable, binding stipulation of settlement in the underlying action. The defendants moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint arguing, inter alia, that their actions did not proximately cause the plaintiff damages. The Supreme Court granted the defendants’ motion, and the plaintiff appeals.”

“Here, the defendants demonstrated, prima facie, the absence of proximate cause by relying on the plaintiff’s on-the-record acquiescence to the terms of the stipulation of settlement in the underlying action. In opposition, the plaintiff raised a triable issue of fact as to whether the [*2]actions of the defendants, in advising her with regard to the stipulation of settlement, proximately caused her damages. Consequently, that branch of the defendants’ motion which was for summary judgment dismissing the cause of action to recover damages for legal malpractice should have been denied (see Birnbaum v Misiano, 52 AD3d 632, 634).

Contrary to the Supreme Court’s determination, the causes of action alleging breach of fiduciary duty and to set aside the retainer agreement were not duplicative of the legal malpractice cause of action, and should not have been dismissed on that basis (see Postiglione v Castro, 119 AD3d 920, 922). Moreover, with regard to the cause of action to set aside the retainer agreement, the defendants failed to eliminate all triable issues of fact pertaining to the terms of the agreement and whether they, in fact, adhered to it (see Becker v Julien, Blitz & Schlesinger, 66 AD2d 674).

The Supreme Court should have denied that branch of the defendants’ motion which was for summary judgment dismissing the cause of action alleging a violation of Judiciary Law § 487, as the defendants failed to eliminate all triable issues of fact regarding “the only liability standard recognized in Judicary Law § 487 . . . of an intent to deceive” (Dupree v Voorhees, 102 AD3d 912, 913).”

 

Print:
EmailTweetLikeLinkedIn
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.