In Zegelstein v The Roth Law Firm PLLC  2020 NY Slip Op 30581(U) February 28, 2020 Supreme Court, New York County Docket Number: 154224/2018 Judge: W. Franc Perry Plaintiff sued insurers and others in State and Federal Court where each of the cases was dismissed. The Legal Malpractice case is now dismissed as well,

”  The original complaint_ in an underlying action alleged that plaintiff Zegelstein is an anesthesiologist and owner of plaintiffs Custom anesthesia Services, PC and Innovative Anesthesia Solutions, P.C. The defendants in that action are alleged to be doctors with practices
in Manhattan, Haroon Chaudry, M,.D. (Chaudry), Michael J. Faust (Faust), M.D., Jed Kaminetsky, M.D.(Kaminetsky), Michael P. Krumholz, M.D. (Krumholz) and Alan Raymond M.D. (Raymond), who entered, beginning in 2002, into separate agreements with Zegelstein for her to provide in-office anesthesia services to their patients, as well as to VCare LLC. The
agreements “provided for Zegelstein’s billing health insurance companies (the ‘insurers’) and/or patients (if uninsured or for balances owed after insurance payments were made) separately from the defendant physicians. Billing for services were allegedly rendered to the patients from June 2007 through 2011″ (Zegelstein v Faust, Slip Op 31257(U), *2 [Sup Ct, NY County 2017]). Zegelstein alleged that insurer/patient funds intended as payment for her services were deposited into accounts of the defendant physicians and converted by them. She alleged that she did not begin to learn of the theft until mid-2012.”

“Plaintiffs commenced that action by filing a summons with notice on April 17, 2014. On or about August 8, 2014, plaintiffs retained defendants to take over the representation of the case. At that time, when Roth provided a substitution of counsel, no summons or summons with notice had yet been served upon the defendants in that action. On August 13, 2014, Roth filed a verified complaint, and served that complaint upon the defendants in that action, but did not
serve the summons or summons with notice upon the defendants. Between August 13, 2014 and October 17, 2014, Roth was advised by counsel for the defendants in that action that they were never served with a summons.” Yet, Roth did not serve the summons.

During October 2014, defendants filed multiple motions to dismiss. On November 26, 2014, Roth, plaintiffs’ counsel at the time, cross-moved to extend the time to file the verified· complaint. On April 25, 2015, Justice Singh rendered a decision dismissing the complaint. In that decision, the court found that it lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendants due to “the failure to serve a, summons with the complaint,” and therefore did not consider plaintiffs’ motion to extend the time to file the complaint. Plaintiffs allege in their complaint herein that at this
point in the underlying litigation that “even though the claim was doomed by the lack of service of a summons, Defendants continued to litigate the action, charge fees and fail to remedy the situation” (complaint, ~ 83). This, however, is contradicted by the testimony in her own affidavit in support of her opposition to defendants’ motion to dismiss, in which Zegelstein avers that she “informed Roth [she] wanted to appeal the decision and he misadvised [her] that [she] should refrain from appealing the decision, because an appeal would have no merit” (Zegelstein aff, ~ 38). ”

“In this action, plaintiffs allege that but for Roth’s “egregious lack of diligence”, plaintiffs’ case would have survived dismissal and had a favorable outcome. Plaintiffs list several failures by Roth, including his failure to serve the summons  in the state case within the 120 days as
mandated by the CPLR, and his failure to attach the proposed amended complaint to his cross motion to amend the complaint, resulting in the denial of that motion. Plaintiffs allege three causes of action: malpractice, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
Defendants move to dismiss on the ground that plaintiffs cannot maintain a cause of action for malpractice in light of the decisions issued by Justice Singh and District Judge Forrest dismissing the underlying actions. Further, defendants argue that plaintiffs’ causes of action for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty are duplicative of plaintiffs’ malpractice claim and, therefore, should be dismissed.”

“The court finds that plaintiffs here are unable to meet their burden to prove that “but for” the alleged negligence of defendant, they would have prevailed in the underlying matter. Plaintiff alleges that defendant’s failure to serve the summons timely, and consequent failure to obtain jurisdiction over the defendants in the underlying action, or to commence a new action, doomed her claim. However, the decisions of both Justice Singh and District Judge Forrest undermine these allegations.

The First Department affirmed Justice Singh’s decision dismissing plaintiffs’ underlying lawsuit:
“In addition to plaintiffs’ extreme lack of diligence, the statute of limitations on the majority of plaintiffs’ claims appears to have expired prior to the initiation of this action, although it is difficult to say with certainty due to the lack of specificity in the complaint. This lack of specificity also weighs against allowing an extension, as does the prejudice suffered by defendants, who were unable to timely investigate plaintiffs’ claims” (Zegelstein v Faust, _AD3d_, 2020 NY Slip Op 00390, at *1-*2 [!51 Dept 2020][intemal citations omitted]).

Further, employing the doctrine of collateral estoppel, this court finds that these two previous decisions bar the claims in this malpractice suit. Collateral estoppel “precludes a party from relitigating in a subsequent action or proceeding an issue clearly raised in a prior action or
proceeding and decided against that party or those in privity, whether or not the tribunals or causes of action are the same” (Ryan v New York Telephone Co., 62 NY2d 494, 500 [1984]. “Collateral estoppel … is but a component of the broader doctrine of res judicata which holds
that, as to the parties in a litigation and those in privity with them, a judgment on the merits by a court of competent jurisdiction is conclusive of the issues of fact and questions of law necessarily decided therein in any subsequent action ( Gra’!1atan Home Jnvs. Corp. v Lopez, 46 NY2d 481, 485 [1979]). “

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.