Floral Park Ophthalmology, P.C. v Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, LLP 2023 NY Slip Op 2863
Decided on May 31, 2023 Appellate Division, Second Department shows how the courts take a deep dive into attorney defenses to legal malpractice claims. With a vigor not found in other areas of negligence, attorney defenses to legal malpractice are scrutinized and applied against plaintiffs.

“In February 2019, the plaintiffs commenced this action against the defendants, former counsel to the plaintiffs, inter alia, to recover damages for legal malpractice. The plaintiffs alleged, among other things, that the defendants committed legal malpractice in their representation of the plaintiffs in a breach of contract action commenced by the plaintiffs against a nonparty medical billing services provider (hereinafter the underlying action) and, with respect to the plaintiff Lawrence F. Jindra, in a “disability insurance claim matter.” According to the plaintiffs, the defendants pressured the plaintiffs to “drop” the underlying action. The plaintiffs also alleged, inter alia, that the defendants, through legal nonfeasance, caused Jindra’s disability insurance policy to lapse. Thereafter, the defendants moved to dismiss the complaint based on documentary evidence, the expiration of the statute of limitations, and the failure to state a cause of action. As is relevant to the appeal, by order entered December 11, 2019, the Supreme Court granted that branch of the defendants’ motion which was to dismiss the cause of action alleging legal malpractice. The plaintiffs appeal.”

Here, the plaintiffs failed to plead that, but for the defendants’ negligence, they would have prevailed in the underlying action (see Katsoris v Bodnar & Milone, LLP, 186 AD3d at 1506; Keness v Feldman, Kramer & Monaco, P.C., 105 AD3d at 813). To the contrary, as noted by the Supreme Court, it is uncontroverted that the plaintiffs settled the underlying action in order to avoid potential criminal liability for fraud. To the extent that the complaint alleged that the plaintiffs would have fared better at trial or in the settlement, the allegations in the complaint were conclusory and lacked factual support (see Katsoris v Bodnar & Milone, LLP, 186 AD3d at 1506). The plaintiffs’ “hindsight criticism of counsels’ reasonable course of action . . . does not rise to the level of legal malpractice” (Schiller v Bender, Burrows & Rosenthal, LLP, 116 AD3d at 758 [citation and internal quotation marks omitted]).

With respect to so much of the cause of action alleging legal malpractice as it relates to Jinder’s disability insurance claim matter, the plaintiffs also failed to set out the elements of a legal malpractice cause of action, including omitting certain basic factual information such as any allegations that the defendants failed to exercise the ordinary reasonable skill and knowledge commonly possessed by any member of the legal profession and damages (see Keness v Feldman, Kramer & Monaco, P.C., 105 AD3d at 812). Moreover, the defendants established that, to the extent that the cause of action alleging legal malpractice was predicated upon Jindra’s disability insurance claim matter, it was barred by the applicable statute of limitations (see Webster v Sherman, 165 AD3d 738, 741; Alizio v Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, P.C., 126 AD3d 733, 735).”

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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.