Edelman v Berman  2021 NY Slip Op 04120 Decided on June 30, 2021
Appellate Division, Second Department presents an interesting real estate legal malpractice claim.  It illustrates two points.  First:  No document is absolutely required to show an attorney-client relationship.  Second:  Violation of a statute or rule, combined with alleged damage can support a legal malpractice claim.

“”On a motion pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7) to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action, the court must accept the facts alleged in the complaint as true, accord the plaintiff the benefit of every possible favorable inference, and determine only whether the facts as alleged fit within any cognizable legal theory” (Shah v Exxis, Inc., 138 AD3d 970, 971). “Where a court considers evidentiary material in determining a motion to dismiss a complaint pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7), but does not convert the motion into one for summary judgment, the criterion becomes whether the plaintiff has a cause of action, not whether the plaintiff has stated one, and unless the movant shows that a material fact as claimed by the plaintiff is not a fact at all and no significant dispute exists regarding the alleged fact, the complaint shall not be dismissed” (Bodden v Kean, 86 AD3d 524, 526).

Applying this standard, the Supreme Court properly granted that branch of the Wisnicki defendants’ motion which was to dismiss the cause of action to recover damages for fraud insofar as asserted against them. “The elements of a cause of action sounding in fraud are a material misrepresentation of an existing fact, made with knowledge of the falsity, an intent to induce reliance thereon, justifiable reliance upon the misrepresentation, and damages” (Mitchell v Diji, 134 AD3d 779, 780 [internal quotation marks omitted]). “When a plaintiff brings a cause of action based upon fraud, ‘the circumstances constituting the wrong shall be stated in detail'” (Sargiss v Magarelli, 12 NY3d 527, 530, quoting CPLR 3016[b]). Here, the complaint did not allege in any detail any misrepresentations that were made to the plaintiff by the Wisnicki defendants or of which the Wisnicki defendants had knowledge.

However, the Supreme Court erred in granting those branches of the Wisnicki defendants’ motion which were to dismiss the causes of action alleging legal malpractice and violation of Real Property Law § 265-a insofar as asserted against them. As to the legal malpractice cause of action, the Wisnicki defendants contend that they had no attorney-client relationship with the plaintiff. An attorney-client relationship may arise even in the absence of a written retainer agreement, and a court must look to the words and actions of the parties to determine whether such a relationship exists (see Tropp v Lumer, 23 AD3d 550, 551). Here, according the plaintiff the benefit of every favorable inference, she sufficiently alleged the existence of an attorney-client relationship (see Hall v Hobbick, 192 AD3d 776see also Tropp v Lumer, 23 AD3d at 551).

An action for damages or equitable relief for violations of Real Property Law § 265-a may be commenced against, among others, “a person who in any manner solicits, induces, arranges, or causes any equity seller to transfer title . . . to [a] residence in foreclosure” (Real Property Law § 265-a[2][j]; see id. § 265-a[2][e]; [9]). Here, construing the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the facts alleged state a cognizable cause of action against the Wisnicki defendants for violation of Real Property Law § 265-a.”

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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.