Obtained Dismissal of Civil Rights Claims in U.S. District Court
The Firm represented a municipality being sued in an amended complaint, after this Firm had already secured a dismissal of the original complaint, for alleged violations by the municipality of “substantive due process” arising out of a revocation of a Certificate of Occupancy. In order to prevail, the plaintiff would have had to prove that the governmental action constituted “egregious official conduct” so as to render it “arbitrary in the constitutional sense.”
On motion to dismiss by this Firm, we convinced the Court that our client’s actions did not “shock the conscience” or were not “so outrageously arbitrary as to constitute a gross abuse of governmental authority.” The Federal Court adopted our position that there was a fatal failure to plead facts sufficient to make out a prima facie cause of action, and granted this Firm’s motion to dismiss the amended complaint against our municipal client in its entirety.
Gaines, Novick, Ponzini, Cossu & Venditti, LLP represents numerous Villages, Towns, and Cities in Westchester and PutnamCounties, as well as those Counties themselves, in various municipal representation and defense matters.
Trial Verdict Defeating Specific Performance
At trial, our Firm defeated claims for specific performance of a real estate contract brought by a supposed “religious” corporation which was, ultimately, found to have defrauded an elderly land owner. Our client, an elderly retired psychiatrist, fell prey to a self-styled Buddhist Monk who purported to establish a NYS Religious Corporation for the purpose of purchasing the psychiatrist’s home located on a several acre estate in Westchester, purportedly to “carry on the doctor’s life work” by establishing a wellness and retreat center.
In fact the corporation was a sham and the “monk,” by the exercise of undue influence, had manipulated the doctor into signing an onerous one-sided contract of sale that would have taken the doctor’s home from her for approximately twenty-per cent of its real market value.
Called into the case only three weeks before trial, our Firm was able to defeat the contract in court and demonstrate the buyer’s fraud, lack of fairness, and overreaching in the purported contract. Subsequently, the doctor was able to sell her home and estate at fair market value in an arm’s length transaction, providing financial security for her.
Vacatur of Federal Court Default Judgment in the U.S. District Court
This Firm represented an individual and his contracting company in successfully vacating a Default Judgment against the individual, as well as the damages portion of the Judgment against his corporation, in Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, in a Fair Labor Standards Act (“FSLA”) action. This was accomplished by proving to the Court’s satisfaction that the underlying Judgment against the individual was void, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 60(b)(4) for improper service of process.
With respect to damages against the corporation, this amount was vacated under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 60(b)(1), which provides that “the Court may relieve a party . . . from a final judgment . . . [because of] mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect.” The Firm convinced the District Court Judge that the Court had inadvertently approved a damages award without a sufficient evidentiary showing, pursuant to the guidelines that the Court had set. As a result of this vacatur, the Firm was able to settle this matter for a fraction of the amount of the original default judgment, removing liens against property and restraining notices against bank accounts, ultimately saving our client a tremendous amount of personal assets.