Cutie Pie Baby Inc. v Sasson Law PLLC  2022 NY Slip Op 31450(U)  May 2, 2022 Supreme Court, New York County Docket Number: Index No. 655055/2021 Judge: Margaret Chan is an interesting, and relatively rare application of Grace v. Law,  24 NY3d 203 (2014).  In a family setting, two of the family seek to remove the third member.  They did so in a manner which was found to be incorrect, and led to an arbitration.

“On August 19, 2021, plaintiffs filed this action asserting two legal  malpractice claims~ne against Sasson and the second against Akin Gump (NYSCEF # 1,  49-57; 58·67). The complaint alleges that defendants committed legal malpractice by failing to advise plaintiffs to send notice of the Special Meeting to JY which caused damages to plaintiffs (id., , 55, 67). Specifically, the complaint seeks to recover $4,844,451 consisting of (1) $2,186,932 for JY’s legal fees incurred in the arbitration, which CPI was required to pay as part of the arbitration panel’s Final Award, (2) $1,064,992 in legal fees that plaintiffs paid its counsel in connection with the arbitration proceeding, (3) $731,000 in costs and expenses
arising out of the arbitration, (4) $397,343.59 in legal fees paid by plaintiffs to Akin Gump, and (5) $464,513.56 in legal fees to Sasson (id. , 44·48) ”

“To satisfy the pleading requirement for causation, it must be alleged that ‘”but for’ the attorney’s conduct [or nonfeasance], the client would have prevailed in the underlying action or would not have sustained any ascertainable damages” ( Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP v Fashion Boutique of Short Hills, Inc., 10 AD3d 267, 272 [1st Dept 2004]; Cosmetics Plus Group, Ltd. v Traub, 105 AD3d at 140). Regarding damages, “to survive a … pre-answer dismissal motion, a pleading need only state allegations from which damages attributable to the defendant’s conduct [or nonfeasance] may be reasonably inferred” (Lappin v Greenberg, 34 AD3d 277, 279 [1st Dept 2006] [internal citations omitted]).

Under these standards, the court finds that the complaint adequately pleads professional negligence based on allegations that Sasson failed to use “the level of skill and knowledge possessed common to my members of the legal profession” by incorrectly advising plaintiffs that JY could be removed at a special meeting and that they were not obligated to provide JY notice of the meeting (NYSCEF # 1,  50, 56). And contrary to Sasson’s position, dismissal is not warranted on the ground that the alleged failure to properly advise plaintiffs was a matter of professional judgment.

Regarding causation, the complaint alleges that because Sasson gave the wrong advice to plaintiffs·· that notice of the Special Meeting to JY was not necessary — CPB was forced into arbitration with JY, and it was Sasson’s improper legal advice on notice that caused the arbitrators ruled in JY’s favor id., ~,52-54). The complaint also alleges that “[a]s a result of [Sasson’s] improper legal advice, Plaintiffs have been damaged in the amount of $4,844,451.00” (id, , 55).

These allegations are sufficient to plead that “but for” the alleged malpractice, plaintiffs would not have been required to incur the legal fees, costs, and expenses associated with the arbitration proceeding. And while JY would have been entitled to payment for the value of his shares even if he were provided with notice, plaintiffs are not seeking to recover the $7,972,511 that the Award required them to pay for JY’s shares. Instead, plaintiffs seek legal fees, costs, and expenses resulting from the allegedly unnecessary arbitration (Rudolph v Shayne, Dachs, Stanisc1: Corker & Sauer, 8 NY3d 438, 443 [2007] [damages in a legal malpractice action may include “litigation expenses incurred in an attempt to avoid, minimize or
reduce the damage caused by the attorney’s wrongful conduct”). ”

“Next, Sasson’s argument that plaintiffs were required to exhaust appellate review in order to bring this action is unavailing, since Sasson has not shown that plaintiffs would have been likely to succeed on the appeal ( Grace v Law,· 24 NY3d 203, 211-212 [2014]; see also Florists’ Mut. Ins. Co., Inc. v Behman Hambelton, LLP, 160 AD3d 502, 502 [1st Dept 2018] [affirming trial court’s finding that an appeal to Workers’ Compensation Board was not required prior to filing a malpractice claim where such appeal was unlikely to succeed]). “

Email this postTweet this postLike this postShare this post on LinkedIn
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.