It is unusual, and definitely an exception to the requirement of privity of contract between a client and the attorney in order to make a good legal malpractice claim, but such claims can be made in the absence of privity where fraud, collusion, malice or other special circumstances are alleged. Hager v Inner Circle Logistics, Inc.,
2023 NY Slip Op 33395(U), September 28, 2023, Supreme Court, Kings County
Docket Number: Index No. 525941/2022, Judge: Reginald A. Boddie gives the background.

” The initial complaint alleged six causes of action, breach of contract against ICL, money had and received against ICL, unjust enrichment against ICL, fraudulent inducement against ICL, permanent injunction against Riverside and declaratory judgment against all defendants. Plaintiff now seeks to amend the complaint to include a claim against Philips Nizer, a law firm involved in the transaction, and its attorneys Landis and Rosenberg. Plaintiff also sought to add additional claims against the SDC Defendants. However, subsequent to the filing of the motion, those claims were resolved and consequently withdrawn. Therefore, the court need only address the remaining relief sought, wherein plaintiff seeks to amend the complaint to add malpractice and tort claims against Philips Nizer, Landis and Rosenberg and make additional edits.”

“Here, defendants argue, “a threshold inquiry in a legal malpractice claim is whether an
attorney-client relationship exists. An attorney may be liable for malpractice to a third party only if there is “near privity” with the third-party. Absent fraud, collusion, malicious acts, or other special circumstances, an attorney is not liable to third parties not in privity or near-privity for harm caused by professional negligence. As defendants aptly acknowledges, citing Gifford v Harley, 62 AD2d 5 [3d Dept 1978], an attorney may be held liable to third parties if he or she has been “guilty of fraud or collusion or of a malicious or tortious act.”

Plaintiff also agrees and argues, “[ w ]hile privity of contract is generally necessary to state a cause of action for attorney malpractice, liability is extended to third parties, not in privity, for harm caused by professional negligence in the presence of fraud, collusion, malicious acts or other special circumstances,” citing Ginsburg Dev. Cos. v Carbone, 85 AD3d 1110, 1111 [2d Dept 2011]. Further, plaintiff asserts the subject firm and attorneys were aware of the terms of the money deposit and loan and intentionally evaded their obligations, causing plaintiff to suffer damages. Therefore, the court finds neither the malpractice nor prima facie tort claims palpably improper or devoid of merit at this juncture. Moreover, the additional edits in the proposed amended complaint do not appear to be improper. Accordingly, the motion is granted in its entirety.”

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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.