Gopstein v Bellinson Law, LLC 2024 NY Slip Op 02592 Decided on May 09, 2024
Appellate Division, First Department is the curious case of a successful attorney-pro-se plaintiff who settled three claims in a row and then went on to sue the attorney who settled all three claims.

“In this legal malpractice action, plaintiff, an attorney acting pro se, alleges that defendants Bellinson Law, LLC, and Robert J. Bellinson (together Bellinson) negligently advised plaintiff to settle a legal malpractice action he commenced against his former attorney, Steven J. Pepperman. Pepperman initially represented plaintiff in a personal injury action. Unhappy with the results of a summary judgment motion, plaintiff replaced Pepperman with Bellinson in the personal injury action. Bellinson settled the personal injury action on plaintiff’s behalf. Afterward, plaintiff sued Pepperman for legal malpractice. Bellinson subsequently settled both the Pepperman legal malpractice action and Pepperman’s claim for legal fees in the personal injury action.

The court properly dismissed plaintiff’s claim pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7) because he failed to state a cause of action (Leon v Martinez, 84 NY2d 83, 87 [1994]). In order to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff’s complaint in an action for legal malpractice must show that “but for counsel’s alleged malpractice, the plaintiff would not have sustained some actual ascertainable damages” (Pellegrino v File, 291 AD2d 60, 63 [1st Dept 2002], lv denied 98 NY2d 606 [2002]). Moreover, speculative or conclusory damages cannot be the basis of a malpractice claim (see id.).

Here, plaintiff’s allegation that Bellinson’s advice denied him the full value of his malpractice suit against Pepperman was “purely conclusory” (Murray Hill Invs. v Parker Chapin Flattau & Klimpl, LLP, 305 AD2d 228, 229 [1st Dept 2003]). Plaintiff’s complaint lacked any factual allegations to support his conclusion that he “would have succeeded” in achieving a better result in the personal injury action but for Pepperman’s negligence, and that he would have proved legal malpractice against Pepperman but for defendants’ advice (Pellegrino, 291 AD2d at 63). Additionally, plaintiff’s damages were speculative as he provided no basis for his calculations (see id.Zarin v Reid & Priest, 184 AD2d 385, 387-388 [1st Dept 1992]).”

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.