Law Off. of Mark S. Helweil v Karambelas  2021 NY Slip Op 00260 Decided on January 19, 2021 Appellate Division, First Department shows how courts place a very high premium on paying attorney bills.  Basically put, if the attorney send a bill, a written, immediate and specific objection must be made.  Faiure to do so dooms a legal malpractice defense later.

“Plaintiffs made a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment on the basis of an account stated. Defendant client’s signed retainer agreement, payment of a $35,000 retainer, agreement to pay an hourly rate of $600 for legal services, agreement to pay all bills for legal fees, costs, and disbursements immediately upon receipt, as well as four partial payments toward the bills, constituted an acknowledgment of amounts owed and her assent (see Morrison Cohen Singer & Weinstein v Ackerman, 280 AD2d 355, 356 [1st Dept 2001]). Defendant’s failure to lodge a timely, specific objection to the billing was insufficient to rebut any inference of an agreement to pay the stated amount (see Shaw v Silver, 95 AD3d 416 [1st Dept 2012]). Moreover, evidence in the form of detailed monthly invoices addressed to defendant, together with affidavits indicating that the invoices were regularly and timely forwarded to and received by defendant, established plaintiffs’ compliance with the retainer agreement’s regular billing requirements (see Berkman Bottger & Rodd, LLP v Moriarty, 58 AD3d 539, 539 [1st Dept 2009]).

Defendant’s objections raised after the commencement of this action were untimely and insufficient (see Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna, LLP v Oppitz, 105 AD3d 1162, 1163-1164 [3d Dept 2013]; see also L.E.K. Consulting LLC v Menlo Capital Group, LLC, 148 AD3d 527, 528 [1st Dept 2017]). Further, defendant’s reliance on her eighth affirmative defense to raise issues of fact concerning the account stated claim is unavailing. Those allegations are insufficient to rebut the prima facie showing of an account stated (see Abyssinian Dev. Corp. v Bistricer, 133 AD3d 435, 436 [1st Dept 2015]). Defendant’s failure to consolidate her legal malpractice action, which she commenced subsequent to this legal fees action, precludes review of whether her claim is sufficiently intertwined with the account stated cause of action (see Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, LLP v Rose, 111 AD3d 453, 454 [1st Dept 2013).”

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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.