Sometimes a legal malpractice claim against attorney 1 can trigger disclosure of attorney-client communications with attorneys 2 and 3, if there is a sufficient relationship between the communications with other attorneys and the legal malpractice  claim.  Not so in 2138747 Ontario Inc. v Lehman Bros. Holdings, Inc.  2022 NY Slip Op 06087  Decided on November 01, 2022  Appellate Division, First Department.

“Order, Supreme Court, New York County (Andrea Masley, J.), entered on or about June 29, 2021, which, to the extent appealed from as limited by the briefs, granted defendant’s motion to compel disclosure of documents and communications between plaintiff and its current and former counsel relating to an assignment of a cause of action and to plaintiff’s litigation strategy in a prior lawsuit, unanimously reversed, on the law, with costs, and the motion denied.

This breach of contract action arises from an assignment, from defendant Lehman to plaintiff, of a misappropriation claim owned by Lehman’s subsidiary, LB SkyPower, a renewable energy developer. Pursuant to a nondisclosure agreement (NDA), LB SkyPower shared confidential information with Samsung to be used exclusively to evaluate a potential transaction between the parties. Plaintiff alleges, however, that Samsung misappropriated the confidential information and used it to launch a competing renewable energy project in violation of the NDA. LB SkyPower, subsequently, went bankrupt and was unwilling to prosecute a claim against Samsung.”

“Defendant Lehman’s motion to compel plaintiff to produce certain communications and documents that had been withheld, on the basis of attorney-client privilege, should have been denied. Plaintiff’s conduct in bringing a legal malpractice claim against its former counsel, Goodmans, did not trigger the “at issue” waiver doctrine with regard to plaintiff’s breach of contract claim against defendant Lehman. An “at-issue waiver” of the attorney-client privilege occurs where a party affirmatively places the subject matter of its own privileged communication at issue, such as by asserting a claim or defense that the party intends to prove by use of the privileged material (see Nomura Asset Capital Corp. v Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, 62 AD3d 581, 582 [1st Dept 2009]; Deutsche Bank Trust Co. of Ams. v Tri-Links Inv. Trust, 43 AD3d 56, 63 [1st Dept 2007]).

While plaintiff has waived the attorney-client privilege as to any [*2]information that has already been revealed in the pleadings of the malpractice claims against Goodmans, there is no subject matter waiver as a result of these limited disclosures (see Credit Suisse First Boston v Utrecht-America Fin. Co., 27 AD3d 253 [1st Dept 2006] [In breach of contract action, the plaintiff’s allegations concerning reasons for delay in closing did not impliedly waive privilege for related attorney-client communications; even if such waiver occurred, the defendant failed to show that information could not be obtained from other sources]). The advice of counsel is not at issue in plaintiff’s breach of contract claims against defendant Lehman. Nor is this a case where the holder of the privilege affirmatively seeks to use privileged communications while preventing his adversary from examining the remainder of the communications. Thus, the attorney-client communications cited by plaintiff, in the pleadings of the malpractice claims, against Goodmans did not waive plaintiff’s attorney-client privilege as to any confidential communications withheld.”

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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.