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Appeals Court Overturns $731K Legal Malpractice Judgment Against Manhattan Law Firm

A state appeals court has overturned a summary judgment ruling that had awarded a plaintiff in a legal malpractice action $731,156 against the Manhattan-based transaction and commercial litigation firm of Alonso, Andalkar & Facher.

The Appellate Division, First Department court has ruled, in part, that “issues of fact exist” regarding the soundness of the law firm’s advice given to a former client about nonsolicitation of customers after the client was bought out of her partnership in a high-value investment and financial management group.

“Issues of fact exist as to whether, inter alia, AAF’s [Alonso Andalkar’s] advice regarding solicitation was reasonable under the circumstances and in harmony with Bessemer Trust Co., N.A. v Branin (16 NY3d 549),” wrote a five-justice First Department panel in an opinion.

The underlying suit, filed in 2019 by malpractice plaintiff and former Alonso Andalkar client Rosa Mazzone, focused in part on allegations that Alonso Andalkar and co-defendants Mark Alonso and Catania Facher, two of the firm’s current partners, gave Mazzone wrongful advice with regard to express contractual obligations tied to the buy-out centering on nonsolicitation of customers.

According to a complaint filed in the suit, Mazzone, a certified financial planner and securities representative, began working in 2003 with Tracey Schusterman, who was also a certified financial planner and securities representative, when they were at the bank Advest.

While at Advest, the two formed a partnership and financial advisory group that eventually became known as the Schusterman Group, the complaint said.

Over the years, Mazzone and Schusterman moved their high-value brokerage house group to different banks. Also their personal working relationship eventually became strained, according to the complaint.

Still, in 2016 they discussed moving the group, once again, this time from their-then current bank to Royal Bank of Canada, or RBC, the complaint said.

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