While proximate cause is always an element of torts, we believe that the additional element of “but for” causation is unique to legal malpractice claims.  “An attorney’s conduct or inaction is the proximate cause of a plaintiff’s damages if “but for” the attorney’s negligence “the plaintiff would have succeeded on the merits of the underlying action” (AmBase Corp. v Davis Polk & Wardwell, 8 NY3d 428, 434, 866 NE2d 1033, 834 NYS2d 705 [2007]), or would not have sustained “actual and ascertainable” damages (Dombrowski, 19 NY3d at 350Brooks v Lewin, 21 AD3d 731, 734, 800 NYS2d 695 [1st Dept 2005]lv denied 6 NY3d 713, 849 NE2d 972, 816 NYS2d 749 [2006]).

1934 Bedford, LLC v Gutman Weiss, P.C. 2023 NY Slip Op 04558 Decided on September 13, 2023 Appellate Division, Second Department illustrates how this can derail plaintiff’s case.

“Although leave to amend a pleading should be freely given in the absence of prejudice or surprise to the opposing party (see id.), a motion for leave to amend should be denied where the proposed amendment is palpably insufficient or patently devoid of merit (see Buccigrossi v Glatman, 214 AD3d 696Silverman v Potruch & Daab, LLC, 142 AD3d 660, 661; Pedote v Kelly, 124 AD3d 855, 856; Lucido v Mancuso, 49 AD3d 220, 229). “A determination whether to grant such leave is within the Supreme Court’s broad discretion, and the exercise of that discretion will not be lightly disturbed” (Gitlin v Chirinkin, 60 AD3d 901, 902; see U.S. Bank N.A. v Cuesta, 208 AD3d 821, 822; Johnson v Ortiz Transp., LLC, 205 AD3d 696, 697).

Here, the Supreme Court providently exercised its discretion in denying that branch of the plaintiffs’ motion which was pursuant to CPLR 3025(b) for leave to amend the complaint, as the proposed amendment was palpably insufficient or patently without merit. The proposed amendment failed to sufficiently allege that “but for” the defendants’ alleged negligence, the plaintiffs “would not have incurred any damages” (Rudolf v Shayne, Dachs, Stanisci, Corker & Sauer, 8 NY3d 438, 442; see Nomura Asset Capital Corp. v Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, 26 NY3d 40, 49-50; McCoy v Feinman, 99 NY2d 295, 301-302).”

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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.