Lawyers are, if nothing else, inventive.  A claim against another lawyer is almost always subject to legal malpractice analysis, and with that, legal malpractice standards.  Claims of fraud, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, intentional infliction of emotional distress, libel, slander, prima facie tort, and even more.  Nevertheless, courts almost always revert to the mean, and apply legal malpractice standards.  Lewis v Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price Hecht LLP  2020 NY Slip Op 31468(U)  May 21, 2020 Supreme Court, New York County Docket Number: 155686/2019 Judge: Andrea Masley is no exception.

“This is a defamation action initiated by plaintiff Donald Lewis on June 7, 2019 against his former law firm, defendant Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP (PB). (NYSCEF 2, Complaint.) In the FAC, plaintiff alleges the following against the Putney Defendants: aiding and abetting defamation (second cause of action, ,m 230-244), intentional infliction of
emotional distress (fourth cause of action ,m 251-263), and prima facie tort (sixth cause of  action, ~~279-285). 2 (NYSCEF 37.)

Initially, the Putney Defendants were not named as parties in this defamation action, though plaintiff expressly incorporates by reference the allegations from his New York action
(Index No. 652931/2019) initiated on May 16, 2019, against PB and Putney among others (NY Action /.)(Id.; NYSCEF 37, FAG ~3.) In NY Action I, plaintiff alleged aiding and
abetting breach of fiduciary duty against Yim; tortious interference with contract against the Putney Defendants; and legal malpractice against the Putney Defendants. (NY Action I,
NYSCEF 79.) ”

“Like NY Action I, this action must be dismissed against the Putney Defendants which are entitled to immunity “under the shield afforded attorneys in advising their clients, … in
the absence of fraud, collusion, malice or bad faith.” (Beatie v OeLong, 164 AD2d 104, 109 [1st Dept 1990] [citations omitted].) It is in the public interest that attorneys are not subject
to civil liability for doing their jobs ‘”when performed in good faith and for the honest purpose of protecting the interests of their clients.”‘ (Hahn v Wylie, 54 AD2d 629, 629 [1st Dept
1976].) Here, the Putney Defendants were engaged to investigate an employee’s allegations against plaintiff and to issue a report regarding that investigation, which are
within the scope of their duties as attorneys. (Art Capital Group, LLC v Neuhaus, 70 AD3d 605, 609 [1st Dept 2010] [immunity applied on motion to dismiss claims against attorney
who documented and negotiated a loan transaction and office space because these were within the scope of defendant’s duties as an attorney and giving advise that may result in
breach of contract is not enumerated as exception to immunity].) These are also precisely the activities about which plaintiff complains here.

However, despite a 70-page complaint with 286 paragraphs, not including subparts, plaintiffs claims against the Putney Defendants are woefully insufficient for application of
the exception to immunity. Repeating the words “fraud,” “collusion,” and “malice” does not make it so. It is conclusory, and, thus, is not sufficient. (See Abrams v Pecile, 84 AD3d
618, 619 [1st Dept 2011 ].) Moreover, the bad act here is PB’s use of the report in the LA Action and the press, with which plaintiff takes issue, to defame, discredit and silence
plaintiff. However, the Putney Defendants’ actions to which plaintiff objects are limited to investigating plaintiff’s alleged harassment and drafting the report. (See Peci/e v Titan
Capital Group, LLC, 96 AD3d 543, 544 (1st Dept 2012), leave to appeal denied, 20 NY2d 856 [2013].)

As additional support in opposing the Putney Defendants’ assertion of immunity in this action, plaintiff relies on the affirmation of Peter C. Contino, who represents the Putney
Defendants in this action and NY Action I, which was filed in NY Action I. (NY Action I, NYSCEF 21, Contino Affirmation.) In its motion to dismiss the amended complaint in NY
Action I, the Putney Defendants submitted the LA Action complaint arid quote from it to support their contention that their investigation terminated on November 30, 2018.
However, the Contino affirmation does not, either alone or in conjunction with the other alleged acts, create the fraud, collusion, malicious acts or other special circumstances that
are missing from the FAC. Indeed, it is entitled to an absolute privilege as a relevant statement made by attorneys in connection with a proceeding before a court. (Front, Inc. v
Khalil, 24 NY3d 713, 718 [2015].) “

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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.