Hudson Yards LLC v Segal  2020 NY Slip Op 06353 Decided on November 05, 2020 Appellate Division, First Department is another case in which the brutal “but for” causation rule in legal malpractice ends a case.

“To recover damages for legal malpractice, the plaintiff must establish that the attorney (1) “failed to exercise that degree of care, skill and diligence commonly possessed and exercised by a member of the legal community” and (2) that “such negligence was a proximate cause of the loss in question” (Barbara King Family Trust v Voluto Ventures LLC, 46 AD3d 423, 424 [1st Dept 2007]). The IAS court properly held that defendants met their prima facie burden of entitlement to summary judgment on the issues of negligence and proximate causation, and that plaintiff, in opposition, failed to raise a triable issue of fact.

The evidence submitted with the motions establishes that plaintiff and nonparty Fortress Credit Corp. (Fortress) did not privately come to a final settlement agreement, whether oral or otherwise, prior to the foreclosure sale. At most, plaintiff and Fortress agreed to some proposed settlement terms outside of defendant counsel’s presence. As there was no admissible evidence showing that plaintiff had entered into a settlement agreement with Fortress prior to the sale, plaintiff’s claim that defendants failed to advise him that the alleged settlement agreement was unenforceable fails.

In any event, the IAS court properly found that defendants’ advice to plaintiff regarding the sale was reasonable, even if they did not specifically advise him that the proposed agreement was unenforceable (see Brookwood Cos., Inc. v Alston & Bird LLP, 146 AD3d 662, 667 [1st Dept 2017]). As the IAS court found, defendants’ decision to preserve the ability to reach a favorable settlement, while at the same time continuing to pursue its strategy of fighting a deficiency judgment on valuation in the event that settlement could not be reached, was an inherently reasonable one. Plaintiff’s hindsight criticism of this strategy does not support his malpractice claim (see Brenner v Reiss Eisenpress, LLP, 155 AD3d 437, 438 [1st Dept 2017]).

Finally, plaintiff has failed to raise an issue of fact surrounding proximate cause. As the IAS court found, the allegations underlying plaintiff’s malpractice claim were couched in terms of “gross speculations” about future events, without the requisite factual basis to support the allegation (see Phillips-Smith Specialty Retail Group II v Parker Chapin Flattau & Klimpl, 265 AD2d 208, 210 [1st Dept 1999], lv denied 94 NY2d 759 [2000]).”

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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.