It is a little difficult to understand the claims in Peterec-Tolino v Ciacci
2024 NY Slip Op 01259 Decided on March 07, 2024 Appellate Division, First Department. The legal representation was in a personal injury setting, with a workers’ compensation component as well. Plaintiff was able to settle two personal injury cases, and got a cash advance from a funder. How the law firm might have been negligently involved is opaque.

“Supreme Court properly dismissed plaintiff’s breach of fiduciary duty claim, to the extent it arises from Ciacci’s suggestion that plaintiff and his wife seek funding for their personal injury action against nonparty City of New York and related parties (see Kurtzman v Bergstol, 40 AD3d 588, 590 [2d Dept 2007]). Plaintiff’s signed agreement with the nonparty funder, selling a portion of his interest in any potential future litigation proceeds, “conclusively establishes a defense to the asserted claim as a matter of law,” as it shows that defendants did not commit any misconduct by failing to warn plaintiff of the terms of the agreement (Leon v Martinez, 84 NY2d 83, 88 [1994]; see CPLR 3211[a][1]), which plaintiff admittedly signed (see VXI Lux Holdco S.A.R.L. v SIC Holdings, LLC, 171 AD3d 189, 193 [1st Dept 2019]; Tozzi v Mack, 169 AD3d 547, 548 [1st Dept 2019], lv denied 33 NY3d 908 [2019]). Plaintiff cannot demonstrate that defendants induced him into signing (see Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. v Gibson, 157 AD3d 853, 856 [2d Dept 2018]), or that the contract was usurious or unconscionable, given that he received a cash advance and the repayment terms were contingent upon him securing a judgment or settlement (see Cash4Cases, Inc. v Brunetti, 167 AD3d 448, 449-450 [1st Dept 2018]).

Supreme Court also properly dismissed the breach of fiduciary duty claim to the extent that it arose from defendants’ legal representation of plaintiff. Since plaintiff essentially alleges that defendants “provided inadequate and ineffective representation,” the claim is “properly treated . . . as sounding in legal malpractice” (Cherry Hill Mkt. Corp. v Cozen O’Connor L.P., 118 AD3d 514, 514 [1st Dept 2014]). As for plaintiff’s proceedings before the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB), both the Administrative Law Judge and review panel’s appeal decisions constitute documentary evidence conclusively establishing that plaintiff would not have prevailed, as those decisions were based on his claim form, statements at an independent medical evaluation, and testimony during the WCB hearing (see O’Callaghan v Brunelle, 84 AD3d 581, 581-582 [1st Dept 2011], lv denied 18 NY3d 804 [2012]). As for his first personal injury action against the City, the MTA, and related parties, the complaint fails to state a cause of action for malpractice since defendants successfully negotiated [*2]a settlement on his behalf despite an adverse finding by the WCB. As for his second personal injury action against private construction companies, of which plaintiff disclaimed knowledge until after the settlement was negotiated, the stipulation of discontinuance demonstrates that the settlement covered those companies as well, as they were represented by the same attorney who represented the City defendants in the other action and negotiated the settlement with plaintiffs (see Chic Realty 712, LLC v GSA Holding Corp., 220 AD3d 914, 915 [2d Dept 2023]).”

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.