A child dies and a claim of medical malpractice ensues.  The parents consent to an autopsy and certain of the child’s organs are not returned.  Apparently the medical malpractice claim founders in the absence of examination of the organs, besides which, the parents want to bury them.  They sue their personal injury law firm in Marinelli v Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo, P.C.  2022 NY Slip Op 02994 Decided on May 4, 2022 Appellate Division, Second Department.

“The plaintiffs commenced this action against the defendant law firm, which had represented the plaintiffs in connection with a prior action to recover damages for medical malpractice in connection with the birth of their child (hereinafter the decedent). The plaintiffs alleged that they “retained the defendant to recover all of the organs removed” during an autopsy of the decedent which was conducted by New York Methodist Hospital (see Marinelli v New York Methodist Hosp., ___ AD3d ___ [decided herewith]), and “to pursue an action for medical malpractice.” In the first cause of action in the complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant failed to take certain steps to recover the subject organs, and that “had the defendant timely pursued recovery of the [subject] organs, the organs would have been available for return and burial and in fact, New York Methodist Hospital would have returned the organs to the plaintiffs for such burial.”

“Here, the complaint failed to adequately allege that the defendant’s breach of its professional duty proximately caused the plaintiffs to sustain actual damages. The plaintiffs alleged that New York Methodist Hospital (hereinafter the hospital) would have agreed to return the subject organs to the plaintiffs if the defendant had taken certain steps after it was retained. However, the plaintiffs’ contention “rests on speculation as to how [the hospital] would have responded to these [steps]” (Bua v Purcell & Ingrao, P.C., 99 AD3d at 848).

In support of its motion to dismiss the first cause of action in the complaint, the defendant submitted, among other things, a consent form (hereinafter the consent form), which was executed by the plaintiff Vito Marinelli. As we have determined in a related appeal (see Marinelli v New York Methodist Hosp., ___ AD3d ___ [decided herewith]), the consent form explicitly granted the hospital the authority to retain and dispose of the subject organs so long as the hospital considered such actions “appropriate” for the stated purpose of the autopsy, which included the general goal of “furthering medical knowledge.” The consent form thereby conferred “discretionary” authority on the hospital to determine “whether to remove and retain an organ for further [*2]examination and testing” (Cansev v City of New York, 185 AD3d at 896; see Shipley v City of New York, 25 NY3d 645, 654; cf. Zhuangzi Li v New York Hosp. Med. Ctr. of Queens, 147 AD3d 1115, 1117). The plaintiffs do not allege that they retained the defendant before the hospital exercised its discretion in this matter pursuant to the terms agreed upon in the consent form. In light of the discretion imparted by the consent form, “the plaintiff[s’] contention that the alleged malpractice resulted in legally cognizable damages is conclusory and speculative inasmuch as it is premised on decisions that were within the sole discretion of the [hospital]” (Bua v Purcell & Ingrao, P.C., 99 AD3d at 848; see AmBase Corp. v Davis Polk & Wardwell, 8 NY3d 428, 436; Dempster v Liotti, 86 AD3d at 180; Hashmi v Messiha, 65 AD3d at 1195; Wald v Berwitz, 62 AD3d at 787; Holschauer v Fisher, 5 AD3d at 554; Giambrone v Bank of NY, 253 AD2d 786, 787; see also Rudolf v Shayne, Dachs, Stanisci, Corker & Sauer, 8 NY3d at 443; Dupree v Voorhees, 68 AD3d 810, 812-813). Under the circumstances, the Supreme Court properly granted the defendant’s motion pursuant to CPLR 3211(a) to dismiss the first cause of action in the complaint. Accordingly, we affirm the first order appealed from, dated July 13, 2017.”

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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.