Little Fresh Pond Association Officers of Southampton, New York,
Secure Summary Victory Against Jay Jacobs
The law firm of Phillips Nizer LLP represented the victorious defendants
New York, NY – In a substantial victory for the two senior officers of Southampton’s Little Fresh Pond Association (LFPA), Phillips Nizer secured summary judgment for its clients and the claims against them have been dismissed. Defendants John Barona and John Gorman, the president and vice president of LFPA, were sued for defamation for an amount not less than $45 million by plaintiffs Jay Jacobs and his company, Southampton Day Camp Realty, LLC, relating to a flier opposing Mr. Jacobs’ attempt to develop a large children’s day camp adjacent to the Little Fresh Pond in Southampton, New York.
In a July 3, 2012 ruling, the Honorable John J. J. Jones, Jr., (Supreme Court, Suffolk County) (Index #11-32983; Supreme Court, State of New York, I.A.S. Part 10 – Suffolk County) summarily dismissed plaintiffs’ lawsuit because it was a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, a “SLAPP suit”, and plaintiffs did not offer evidence to support their position. The Court explained that New York State enacted in 1992 Civil Rights Law section 76-a to protect citizens such as the defendants in this case from facing these type of oppressive SLAPP suits, which typically are commenced by land developers to discourage public opposition to their applications for permits, zoning changes, or other permission from a government body relating to their projects. Here, plaintiffs had applied to the Town of Southampton Chief Building Inspector for a determination that their proposed use of the property as a large children’s day camp was consistent with the property’s pre-existing non-conforming use. In August, 2011, the Town’s Building Inspector concurred with plaintiffs that their plan for the property did not constitute a change or expansion of the property’s pre-existing non-conforming use. LFPA, along with two other organizations, appealed that decision to the Town of Southampton Zoning Board of Appeals. In March, 2012, before the Court issued its decision, the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals reversed the Town Building Inspector’s decision and denied Jay Jacobs’ application to operate the large summer camp, deciding that such a camp would be a new, non-conforming use for the property.
Justice Jones, Jr. also granted the defendants’ application to recover from plaintiffs Jacobs and his company counsel fees and costs incurred in defense of this case, noting that plaintiffs commenced this SLAPP Suit “without a substantial basis in fact” and that “‘New York State public policy strongly disfavors SLAPP suits designed to chill the exercise of a citizen’s right to petition the government or appropriate administrative agency for redress of a perceived wrong.’” A hearing to determine the amount of attorneys’ fees and costs to which defendants are entitled has been scheduled for August 8, 2012.
Phillips Nizer Senior Litigation Partner Stuart A. Summit, with Counsel Jeffrey L. Shore, represented defendants John Barona and John Gorman, president and vice president of LFPA.
About the Little Fresh Pond Association:
The Little Fresh Pond Association is an association of residents in the neighborhood surrounding Little Fresh Pond, in Southampton, New York, which was formed in the 1970s, whose mission is to assist in the management and protection of Little Fresh Pond. The Little Fresh Pond Association acts as an environmental watchdog, working with governmental authorities on environmental issues relating to Little Fresh Pond and its surrounding watershed area.
About Phillips Nizer LLP:
Phillips Nizer LLP has been engaged in a wide-ranging practice of domestic and international law for 85 years. Established by world-renowned trial attorney Louis Nizer, the firm’s principal office is in Manhattan, with additional offices in Garden City, Long Island, East Hampton, Long Island (which it recently opened), as well as Hackensack, New Jersey. To learn more about Phillips Nizer LLP, please visit: www.phillipsnizer.com.