News from Devitt Spellman Barrett, LLP


May 23, 2018

Ted Sklar, counsel to the firm and a member of the Commercial Division Committee of the Suffolk County Bar Association, has contributed an article titled “Thirty Years of Practicing Law under the Sanctions Rule: Section 130.1.1” to the May 2018 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer, the official publication of the Suffolk County Bar Association. The article summarizes the law and regulations pertaining the awarding of sanctions against counsel for engaging in frivolous conduct in civil litigation.

May 18, 2018

DSB successfully defended a housing discrimination complaint before the Office of Housing and Urban Development, State Division of Human Rights and the Department of Justice; all three agencies closed their files without finding evidence of discrimination, noting that the Village had legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for denying petitioner’s requested variance.

May 17, 2018

The firm successfully obtained a defendant’s verdict on six of seven causes of action on behalf of three Eastern Suffolk County Village Police Officers and Village, in Federal Court in an excessive force case. The plaintiff’s surviving family members alleged that the Police Officers used excessive force, failed to intervene to protect the plaintiff and assaulted and battered the decedent. The plaintiff also alleged that the Village failed to properly train the Officers in the proper techniques for interacting with emotionally disturbed people. During the Officers’ attempt to place the individual in custody, in order to escort him to obtain psychiatric treatment, a scuffle ensued, causing the plaintiff and the Officers to fall to the ground. During the struggle, the Officers employed a Taser device (in stun mode) and oleoresin capsicum (O.C. or pepper spray). The subject was ultimately restrained with handcuffs and ankle ties. In the resulting lawsuit, plaintiff’s family claimed that the Officers’ alleged use of excessive force, their failure to intervene to protect the plaintiff and the Village’s failure to properly train the officers caused the plaintiff’s injuries and death. After a two week trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Police Officers and Village on six of the seven causes of action. Despite their finding of liability on the one cause of action, the jury did not award any monetary compensatory or punitive damages.

May 1, 2018

The firm successfully obtained a defendant’s verdict on behalf of an Eastern Suffolk County Town Police Officer and Town, in Federal Court. The female plaintiff alleged that the Police Officer used excessive force, assaulted and battered her during a routine traffic stop. The plaintiff was pulled over by the Officer for using her cellular telephone while driving. During the stop a scuffle ensued, causing the plaintiff and the Officer to end up on the ground. As a result of the alleged excessive force, the plaintiff’s hamstring was torn from her hip bone. After a week-long trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Police Officer and Town, finding no excessive force was committed.

May 1, 2018

DSB successfully won a motion for summary judgment on behalf of its client, a snow removal subcontractor, defeating claims by a Plaintiff who was injured in the parking lot of a large whole sale store as well as cross claim by the store based upon provisions in the snow removal contract which called for indemnification of the store.

April 26, 2018

On April 26, 2018, DSB won a case for a village on the east end of Long Island involving the Freedom Of Information Law (FOIL). A security company, which was owned by the village’s former chief of police, had requested that the village provide it with documents involving an investigation into alleged violations of the village ethics code by village employees with outside jobs. The village provided all responsive documents except those pertaining to police officers – state law exempts police misconduct records from FOIL. However, after the former police chief signed a release for his records, the village provided the records. Claimants brought suit alleging the records were not turned over pursuant to the law in a timely manner. In a written decision, the Court rejected the security company’s many claims, finding that the village timely provided all required documents and finding that the village was correct in initially withholding the records of the police chief. In the end, the Court dismissed the security company’s lawsuit in its entirety.

April 19, 2018

DSB obtained summary judgment for a school district in the United States District Court for the Eastern of New York. The civil rights action arose out of an alleged assault by non-District employees while the student was enrolled at an out-of-district facility. In granting summary judgment for the district, the Court found that the district discharged it responsibility to provide special education services to the student by appropriately contracting out the services. As a result, because the incident occurred while the student was out of the physical custody of the district, he had passed out of the school’s orbit of authority and the district could not be held liable.

April 17 2018

Earlier in 2018, DSB won a case involving a former police officer of a town in Suffolk County who claimed that he had been fired for political reasons involving a high profile 2015 limousine accident involving multiple deaths. There, the court ruled that the police officer had been dismissed for legitimate reasons. In April 2018, the same court dismissed a different lawsuit in which the officer sought money damages in connection with his termination. The court held that the officer’s claims for money damages were barred because the officer had refused to cooperate at a municipal hearing. The decision highlighted that although the officer appeared for the hearing, he refused to meaningfully answer 49 separate questions and that more than half of the hearing consisted of his attorney’ instructions not to answer and related dialogue.

April 10, 2018

The firm successfully argued a motion for summary judgment involving a claim against a Suffolk County school district for personal injuries arising out of a wrestling practice. The infant plaintiff, an experienced inter-scholastic wrestler, was found to have assumed the risk of injuries inherent in the sport. The Court also concluded that the District’s practices and procedures did not unreasonably enhance the risk of injury to the infant plaintiff and that there was no evidence to suggest that the difference in the weight between the infant plaintiff and the other participant was a proximate cause of the injury.

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