Legal Malpractice has become so complicated that
you need an expert to help figure it out.

Fall 2012 Course Outline & Reading Assignments: Lawyer Malpractice, Hofstra Law School





                        Maurice A. Deane School of Law

                           HOFSTRA UNIVERSITY





Updated August 12, 2012

Prof. Bennett  Wasserman

Contact information:
Email: or
Cell:        201-803-6464  or      Law Office: 201.907-5000


Class Meets on Tuesdays beginning August 21, 2012  between from 12:10 to 2:00 pm  in KOPPL 0014

All Required Reading Materials are hyperlinked below in this  Course Outline & Reading Assignment List. Those that are not linked  are not required for class meetings,  but are recommended. You can  access via  the internet, for example through  Google Scholar or your own student Westlaw or Lexis accounts virtually all other  materials. Materials that you cannot readily access will be placed in a Dropbox folder by Prof. Wasserman,  to which all students will receive an invitation to link to the folder.   Obviously, Google provides an excellent search engine to locate anything you might want to find, as do the official judiciary websites in many states, including New Jersey and New York. 

Additional  Reading Materials:.

Fortney & Johnson,  Legal Malpractice Law: Problems and Prevention (Thomson/West, 2008) (Hereafter referred to as "FJ").

 Restatement of the Law Governing Lawyers (ALI, 2000) (Hereafter "RLGL")

 Rules of Professional Conduct NY  (NY RPC)

Rules of Professional Conduct NJ  (NJ RPC)



Topics for Class Discussion:

Sources of Lawyer Liability Common Law;  Rules of Professional Conduct: The Overlapping Worlds of Legal Ethics and Legal Malpractice;  Rules of Professional Conduct as Proof of the Standard of Care; The Malpractice Cause of Action: The Basic Elements


Required Readings:

Savings Bank v. Ward 100 U.S. 195 (1880)

Baxt v. Liloia, 155 N.J. 190 (1998)


Additional Readings:

FJ: Chap. 1 (pp. 1-13); Chap 2 (pp.30-32)



Topics For Class Discussion:
Forming the Relationship: What you need and what you don’t need; The Scope of the Relationship (Limiting the lawyer’s duty to the client); Ending the Relationship; The Enduring Relationship

Procanik v. Cillo, 226 N.J. Super. 132 (App. Div. 1988) cert. denied 113 N.J. 357 (1988)

Togstad v. Vesely, Otto, Miller et al 291 N.W.2d 686 (1980).

Jordan v. Lipsig Sullivan et al 689 F. Supp. 192 (SDNY 1988)

Gilles v. Wiley, Malehorn & Sirota, 345 N.J. Super 119 (App Div. 2001)

Kriegsman v. Kriegsman, 150 N.J. Super (App Div 1977)

Estate of Albanese v. Lolio 393 N.J. Super 355 (App Div 2007

Herbert v. Haytaian, 292 N.J. Super 426 (App. Div. 1996)

Lerner v. Laufer, 359 N.J. Super. 201 (App. Div.) cert. denied 177 N,J.223 (2003)

NY Letters of Engagement Rules 

NJ RPC 1.5 (b):

When the lawyer has not regularly represented the client, the basis or rate of the fee shall be communicated in writing to the client before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation. 


Additional Readings:

FJ: Ch. 3 (pp.35-50) 


Class #3- The Client’s "Hybrid" Cause of Action against the Lawyer

Topics for Class Discussion: Breach of Contract; Negligence;Breach of Fiduciary Duty;
Intentional Torts (fraud, conversion)

Required Readings:

 RLGL § 48, 49 

Fiorentino v. Rapaport, 693 A. 2d 208 (Pa. Super. 1997)

Hutchinson v. Smith, 417 So. 2d 926 (Miss. 1982)

Hall v. Nichols, 400 S.E.2d 901 (W.Va. 1990)

Estate of Re v. Kornstein, Veisz & Wexlert, 958 F. Supp.907 (SDNY 1997)

Affidavit of Merit  NJ: 2A:53A–§§26,27,29. 


Additional Readings:

FJ: Ch. 2 (pp. 15-33)

Class #4- The Lawyer’s Basic Duties to the Client and the Standard of Care

Topics For Class Discussion:
The Duty of Competence;The Duty of Diligence; The Duty to Investigate; The Duty to Communicate; The Standard of Care–for most of us; For specialists; For local counsel

Required Readings:

RLGL §§ 15 (Prospective Clients,) 16 (A Lawyers Duties to a Client–In General), 48 (Professional Negligence), 50 (Duty of Care to a Client), 51 (Duty of Care to Certain Non-Clients) , 52 (Standard of Care).
RLGL § 20 (Duty to Inform and Consult with Client);  

RPC 1.1 (Competence); 1.3 (Diligence); 1.4 (Duty to Communicate)

RPC 1.2 The Scope of the Relationship

Hodges v. Carter, 239 N.C. 517, 80 S.E.2d 144 (1954). (standard of care)

Matter of  Yetman, 113 N.J.556 (1989)  (competence)

Olds v. Donnelly, 150 N.J. 424 (1997)  (diligence, candor with client) (entire controversy doctrine)

Brizak v. Needle, 239 N.J. Super. 415, 571 A.2d 975 (App Div.1990). (diligence, duty to investigate)

Ingemi v. Pelino & Lentz, 866 F. Supp. 156 (DNJ, 1994)  (role of local counsel)

Dixon-Ticonderoga Co. v. Estate of O’Connor 248 F.3d 151 (2001)


Additional Reading

FJ: Ch 3 (pp. 51-78)

Class #5- The Lawyer’s Fiduciary Duties 

Topics for Class Discussion:
The Fiduciary Duty;   Defining the Essence of the Fiduciary Duty-putting the interests of the client ahead of those of the lawyer. Conflicts of Interest Self-Dealing and Disloyalty; Abusing the position of trust (e.g., excessive billing) Misuse of Confidential Information


RLGL § 49

RPC 1.6 (confidentiality) 1.7, 1.8, 1.9 (conflicts of interest)

RPC 1.5 (Reasonable Fees)

Traditional Notions of the Fiduciary Duty

 Profit Sharing Trust v. Lampf Lipkind, 267 N.J.Super 174 (L.Div 1993).

Maritrans v. Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz, 529 Pa. 241,602 A.2d 1277 (1992)

Matter of Silverman, 113 N.J. 193 (1988)

 NJ ACPE Op.684

The New Frontier: Abusive Billing Practices

Charnay v. Colbert, 51 Cal. Rptr.3d 471 (Cal. App.2d Dist. 2006)

Cripte v. Leiter, 184 Ill. 2d 185, 703 N.E.2d 100 (1998) (IL Supreme Court)


Additional Reading:

FJ: Ch. 4 (pp. 101-116) Ch. 11 (pp.421-424).

Classes #6 and #7 – The Demise of Privity and The Rise of “Quasi” Client’s Causes of Action for Lawyer Malpractice.


Topics for Class Discussion: Privity and What’s Left of it;  The New York perspective; Other States, a sampling; The “prospective” client;The “implied” client; Duties to the adverse parties and their attorneys
Negligence;Negligent Misrepresentation;   Overcoming Privity’s obstacles:  Assigning the Legal Malpractice Cause of Action Conspiracy; Aiding and Abetting Breach of Fiduciary Duty.



RLGL §§15, 51

Traditional Exceptions to Privity: fraud and  collusion

Dodging the Privity Blockade  

The Balancing of Factors Test

Biakanja v. Irving, 49 Cal. 2d 647,320 P.2d 16 (1958)

Lucas v. Hamm, 56 Cal.2d 583, 364 P. 2d 685 (1962)

Heyer v. Flaig, 70 Cal.2d 223, 449 P.2d 161 (1969).

Third Party Beneficiaries of the Lawyer-Client Relationship:

NY: Prudential Ins. Co v. Dewey Ballantine, 80 N.Y.2d 377 (1992).

NJ:  Stewart v. Sbarro  142 N.J. Super 581 (App. Div. 1976) cert denied 72 N.J. 459 (1976)

Albright v. Burns, 206 N.J. Super 625 ((1986)

Aiding and Abetting Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Wasserman, “Where Were the Lawyers?” N.J. Law J. 1/23/07

Duties to our Adversaries?

Petrillo v. Bachenberg,139 N.J.472 (1995)

Davin, LLC v. Daham 329 N.J. Super 54 (2000)

              Contract: Assigning the Legal Malpractice Cause of Action

PA: Hedlund Mfg. Co. v. Weiser, Staper & Spivak, 517 Pa. 522(1988)

NY: Oppel v. Empire Mutual Ins. Co., 517 F. Supp. 1305 (SDNY1981)  

NJ: Alcman Serv.Corp. v. Bullock, 925 F. Supp. 252 (DNJ, 1996)


Additional Reading:

FJ: Ch. 5 (133-179); Ch. 4 (pp.117-128)

Martyn, The Accidental Client, 33 Hofstra L. Rev. 913 (2005)

Class#7- Continuation of Class #6

Class #8- The Legal Malpractice Expert Witness: Why is this Witness Different from
All Others?

 Topics for Class Discussion: The Expert’s Qualifications; The Expert’s Opinion and his Report; Daubert, Kumho Tire, etc.; “Net Opinion” Rule


ABA Formal Op. 97-047

FRCP 26 

NY CPLR 3101 (d)

NJ Court Rule 4:10-2

Wasserman, "On Being an Expert Witness in Legal Malpractice Cases" (January 2012)

The Federal Approach: Killing  "Junk" Science

Daubert v. Merrill Dow, et al. 509 U.S. 579 (1997)

Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999)

The States’ Approach:  No "Net Opinions" 

Celucci v. Bronstein, 277 N.J. Super 506 (App. Div. 1994)

Kaplan v. Skoloff & Wolfe, 339 N.J. Super 97 ( App. Div. 2001)

Froom v. Perel, 377 N.J. Super. 298 (App. Div. 2005) 

Hedinger & Lawless v. Betal, (NJ App. Div. 3-10-2011)

Guarding Against the Expert’s "Net Opinion"

Carbis Sales v. Eisenberg, 397 N.J. Super 64 (App. Div. 2007)

Carbis Sales v. Eisenberg  Expert report for Plaintiff


Additonal Reading:

FJ: Chap 3 (pp. 59-70)


Class #9- Proximate Cause in Underlying Litigation Cases

Topics for Class Discussion:  Underlying Civil Cases; Proving a Case Within a Case;The “Old Fashion” Way The Streamlined Way;  Underlying Criminal Cases: Constitutional Right to Effective Assistance of Counsel


 RLGL: § 53

The Case Within a Case: "But For the Lawyer’s Negligence…"

Hoppe v. Ranzini, 158 N.J. Super. 158 (App. Div. 1978)

Leavy v. Kram, 34 Misc. 2d 479, 226 NYS2d 349 (1962) (collectibility) 

Duncan v. Lord, 409 F. supp. 687 (ED Pa. 1976) (solvency of underlying defendant)

Albee Associates v. Orloff Lowenbach, et al. 317 N.J. Super 211(App.Div.1999)

The Substantial Factor Test

Conklin v. Hannoch Weisman, 145 N.J. 395 (1996)

Milband, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy v. Boon,  13 F.3d 537 (2d Cir.1994)

Burdens of Proof 

Garcia v. Kozlov, 179 N.J. 343 (2004)

Lieberman v. Employers of Wausau, 84 N.J. 325 ((1980)

Pivnick v. Beck 326 N.J.Super 655 (App Div 1999)

Pivnick v. Beck, 165 N.J. 670 (2000)

Vahila v. Hall 674 N.E.2d 1164 (Ohio 1997)

Kelly v. Berlin, 300 N.J. Super 256 (App Div 1997)

Bailey v. Tucker, 533 Pa. 237 (1993)

Fuschetti v. Bierman, 128 N.J. Super 290 (1974) (malpractice jury decides what  a reasonalbe underlying jury would have awarded). 


Additional Readings:

 FJ: Chap 3 C (pp. 79-99);

Class#10– Proximate Cause in Underlying Transactions

Topics For Class Discussion:
"But for" is alive and well in Commercial Transactions;  Real Estate; Botched  Litigation Settlements as "transactions" and other non-litigation based legal malpractice.


Malpractice in Underlying Transactions

Botched Settlements: Litigation Based Malpractice or Transactional Based Malpractice?

 Wasserman, “Holding Lawyers Accountable for Bad Settlements” NJ Law J. Jan 21, 2008)

Muhammad v. Straussburger, 526 Pa. 541 (1991) 

In re New York Diet Drug Litigation, 850 NYS2d 408 (2008)

Ziegelheim v. Appolo 128 N.J. 250 (1992)   

Grayson v. Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin & Kuriansky 231 Conn. 168, 646 A. 2d 195 (1994)

Puder v. Buechel, 183 N.J. 428  (2005)

Guido v. Duane Morris, LLP  202 NJ 79 (2010)

The Problem of Aggregate Settlements

RPC 1.8(g)

Mass Tort Cases


Class#11- Damages and other Remedies for Malpratice

Topics for Class Discussion: “Actual Damages”;Compensatory Damages; Consequential Damages;
Punitive Damages; Emotional Distress; Loss of Liberty; Attorney’s Fees and Expenses to Correct the Malpractice;  Fee Disgorgement


 Saffer v. Willoughby, 143 N.J.256 (1996)

Merenda v. Superior Court, 3 Cal App 4th 1 (1992)

Gautam v. De Luca, 215 N.J. Super. 388 (App Div., 1987)

Kohn v. Schiappa, 281 N.J. Super 235 ( L. Div.,1995) 

Campagnola v. Mulholland, Minion & Rice 76 N.Y. 2d 38 (1990)

Strauss v. Fost, 213 N.J.Super 239 (App Div 1986)

Perl v. St. Paul Fire and Marine Ins. Co., 345 N.W.2d 209 (Minn 1984)

Wagenmann v. Adams, 829 F. 2d 196 (1st Cir., 1987)

Snyder v. Baumecker, 708 F. Supp. 1451 (DNJ, 1989).

Smith v. Lewis, 13 Cal. 3d 349 533 P. 2d 589 (Cal. Supt Ct. 1975) ovr’ld on other grounds, Re Marriage of Brown, 15 Cal. 3d 838, 544 P.2d 561 (Cal Sup. Ct. 1976)  (loss of opportunity damages)

Additional Reading

FJ: Chap. 6 (pp.181-203)

Class#12-  Defending Legal Malpractice Lawsuits


Topics For Class Discussion: Insurance Defense- The “triadic” relationshipVicarious Liability: The “art” of blaming others for your malpractice; Affirmative Defenses:  Statute of Limitations;Sharing the Risk: Indemnity and contribution; Judgmental Immunity; Prematurity;  Settlement of the Underlying matter; the Entire Controversy Doctrine; Collateral Estoppel; Mitigation; “The client made me do it”



Statute of Limitations-Discovery Rule

NY: CPLR 214 (6)- 3 years whether in contract or tort-overruling Santulli v. Englert, Reilly, et ago, 78 NY 2d 700 (1992)



Vastano v. Algier, 178 N.J. 230 (2003)

Covino v. Peck, 

Scope of Engagement

Lerner v. Laufer, 359 N.J. Super 201 (App. Div. 2003)

Prior Settlement

Contributory Negligence

Conklin v. Hannoch Weisman, 145 N.J. 395 (1996)

Caiati v. Kimel Funding Corp., 154 A.D. 2d 639 (2d Dept. 1989)

Judgmental and Strategic Decision Immunity

Charter Oak Fire Ins. Co. v. State Farm Ins. Co., 344 N.J.Super 401 (2001)

Attorneys Fee Award Negates Malpractice

NY: John Grace & Co., Inc. v. Turnstead, Schechter & Torre, 186 A.D.2d 15 (1st Dept 1992)



Additional Reading

FJ: Chaps. 8 (pp.255-287) then Ch. 7 (pp.205-252)

Class#13- New Frontiers in Legal Malpractice

Topics for Class Discussion: The Tension between the Court and the Legislature controlling the practice of law.  Legislative Efforts to Limit the Rights of Victims of Lawyer


Wasserman, The Professional Services Business Enhancement Act: Myths and Realities (Dec. 2010)


Additional Reading: 

FJ: Chap. 9 (pp.289-349)


Class#14- Preventing Malpractice and Protecting Yourself and Your Clients from it.

Topics For Class Discussion:
Principles of Risk Management; Professional Liability Insurance Alternate Dispute Resolution (Arbitration and Mediation)


Wasserman, Mandatory Legal Malpractice Insurance: The Time has Come  (NJ Law J., Jan. 14, 2010)

Russo, The Consequences of Arbitrating a Legal Malpractice Claim, 35 Hofstra L. Rev. 327 (2006)

Additional Reading:

FJ: Chaps. 10 (pp. 369-401) and 11 (pp.403-420)

Tagged with:

Posted in: CLE & Law School Course