Gordon & Rees New York Team Obtains Victory in Summary Judgment in Highly Publicized Case

September 2020

Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani New York Co-Office Managing partner Misty Marris, and New York partners Ben Levine and Ryan Sestack obtained summary judgment in a highly publicized discrimination and defamation case.

The multi-plaintiff action arose out of a complaint filed in September 2014 in the New York Supreme Court. The firm’s client is a nonprofit community development organization that aims to improve the quality of life for residents in neighborhoods in Brooklyn by addressing economic, educational, health, housing, and social needs for those with low- and moderate incomes. Pursuant to a contract with the NYC Department of Social Services of the Human Resources Administration, the client operated a scatter-site program, which involved the provision of residential units and supportive services for clients of the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (“HASA”), a division of the NYC Resources Administration.

The plaintiffs asserted seven claims including breach of warranty of habitability, a claim under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), a claim under New York Executive Law, a claim under the NYC Administrative Code, a claim under HIPAA, and defamation.The plaintiffs chiefly advanced race (white), disability (AIDS) and sexual orientation (homosexual) discrimination claims against the firm’s clients, allegedly in violation of the FHA, Executive Law and NYCHRL. The plaintiffs sought damages for mental anguish and humiliation, punitive damages and specific performance of the alleged oral agreement. Throughout the litigation, they maintained that the value of the case was in the “high seven figures”.

The case was extremely complicated and involved an interplay between state and federal government agencies as well as various insured entities. To complicate matters further, one plaintiff is self-proclaimed paparazzi with a litigious past. He maintains a blog and often wrote salacious news articles creating a frenzy of press around the case.

In a decision by the Honorable Nancy Bannon, summary judgment was awarded to the firm's clients and all seven claims dismissed.