ECBA Obtains Over $30 Million for Three Wrongfully Convicted Men in Infamous “Bronx Six” Case

New York City and State have agreed to pay $23.78 million to Michael Cosme and Carlos Perez, who were wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for 18 years for two 1995 murders in which neither man had any involvement. Mr. Cosme and Mr. Perez will each receive $8 million from New York City, in addition to $3.89 million previously paid by New York State, for a total of $11.89 million each in settlements.

Mr. Cosme and Mr. Perez were jointly indicted with five other individuals for the 1995 murders of a livery taxi driver and a FedEx employee, despite the absence of any physical evidence connecting them to the crimes. A 2012 investigation by federal authorities revealed that the taxi driver’s murder had actually been committed by two gang members whose names came up repeatedly during the NYPD’s 1995 investigation but who were never pursued as suspects. The revelation that the two gang members had previously confessed to committing the taxi driver murder—without any involvement by any of the six people convicted—led to the recantation of a central witness in the FedEx case, who claimed that her trial testimony had been coerced and manufactured by NYPD detectives. After using this new information to help free Mr. Cosme and Mr. Perez from prison in 2013, ECBA attorneys Earl S. Ward, Elizabeth S. Saylor, and David A. Lebowitz represented the men in civil litigation against the City and State along with co-counsel Julia Kuan of Romano & Kuan, PLLC.

ECBA and Romano & Kuan previously obtained $6.7 million in settlements from the City and State on behalf of the estate of Israel Vasquez, one of the other individuals wrongly accused of the same two 1995 murders, who spent over 12 years in prison before his conviction was overturned due to the insufficiency of the evidence against him. The team has thus recovered over $30 million for these three families in connection with this tragic case. The New York Times and the New York Daily News, among other publications, covered the settlements.


ECBA Settles Metropolitan Museum of Art Case

A settlement has been reached in a 2013 case brought by ECBA against the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The case, Saska et al v. Metropolitan Museum of Art, challenged the Museum’s practice of charging admission fees to visitors and failing to disclose the Museum’s “pay what you wish” policy. The class action suit alleged that the Museum’s signage and online advertising mislead visitors into paying the full advertised “price” for admission to the Museum, when, in fact, the Museum’s policy is to allow visitors to pay as much or as little as they wish.

Under the settlement, which is subject to court approval, the Museum will revise its signage and online advertising to prominently describe the admission fees as “SUGGESTED” and to include the legend: “THE AMOUNT YOU PAY IS UP TO YOU.” In addition, the Museum will require third-party sellers of admission tickets to disclose the Museum’s “pay what you wish” policy, and it will direct cashiers and other Museum employees interacting with the public to explain the “pay what you wish” policy to visitors to avoid any confusion. ECBA’s Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, David Lebowitz, and Ted Oxholm handled the case. The lawsuit and the settlement received extensive press coverage.


ECBA Wins Summary Judgment in Breach of Contract Suit

ECBA lawyers Dan Kornstein and David Lebowitz recently won summary judgment for $195,000 plus interest for ECBA’s client Schlesinger & Company, LLC as plaintiff in a suit against WWP Office, LLC.  The case, in Supreme Court, New York County, was for breach of a commercial real estate brokerage agreement by which our client was to receive additional commissions if the tenant exercised options to renew its lease.  Defendant, which was not the original party to the brokerage agreement, argued it had not assumed the obligations to pay the commission.  We submitted proof it had.  The parties made cross-motions for summary judgment.  Judge Cynthia Kern granted our motion in full.


$6.6 Million Class Action Settlement on Behalf of Medical Residents

On behalf of hundreds of former medical residents who trained in The New York and Presbyterian Hospital’s Weill Cornell Campus Residency Program between January 1, 1995 and June 30, 2001, ECBA obtained preliminary approval of a $6.632 million settlement. Former medical residents had commenced an action in the SDNY claiming that the hospital acted against their interest when it agreed with the IRS not to seek refunds of Federal Insurance Contribution Act (“FICA”) taxes paid by or on behalf of itself and medical residents in the NYP/Weill Cornell Residency Program and failed to disclose the agreement.  Two related lawsuits were filed as class actions by different sets of plaintiffs under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, and both were consolidated. If you are a member of the class, please provide your current address, phone  number, and the years you were a resident to the administrator by calling 877-804-9743 or emailing  More information will soon be available at

To view the Settlement Notice and Declaration of Previous Refund, click here.
To view the Joint Stipulation of Settlement and Release, click here.
To view the Order Granting Preliminary Approval of Class Settlement, Conditionally, Certifying Rule 23 Settlement Class, Appointing Class Class Counsel, and Approving Proposed Notice Procedures, click here.

To read Law360’s coverage, click here.


Misclassified Workers Settle Class Action Lawsuit Recovering $540,000

In Juan Almendras, et al v. Atelier Meriguet-Carrere, et al, Emery Celli Brinkerhoff & Abady LLP, together with The Legal Aid Society’s Employment Law Unit, represent former and current painters of the high end residential decorating and painting companies, Atelier Premiere, Inc. and Atelier Mériguet-Carrère.

On February 4, 2015, the Honorable Judge Paul Crotty of the Southern District of New York granted class certification and final approval of a collective/class action settlement which resolved the painters’ claims that the companies misclassified them as independent contractors and failed to pay overtime compensation as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law (“NYLL”), illegally deducted from their pay money for general liability insurance and workers compensation insurance in violation of the NYLL, and failed to provide annual wage statements and correct paystubs as required by the NYLL. A payment of close to $400,000 will be divided among the class, which consists of more than 80 workers, most of whom are South American men who primarily speak Spanish and Portuguese. The remaining money will go to attorneys’ fees and service awards.

Staffing in this case from Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady included Partner Elizabeth Saylor and Associate David Lebowitz. Staffing from The Legal Aid Society included Staff Attorneys Amy Hong and Hollis Pfitsch and Supervising Attorney Karen Cacace.

To read the complaint click here. To read the settlement click here.


New York City and State Agree to pay $6.7 million in settlements for Wrongful Conviction Cases

The City and State have agreed to pay $6.7 million to the widow of Israel Vasquez, who was wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for more than 12 years for a 1995 homicide. Mr. Vasquez was jointly indicted with five others for two separate homicides, that of a taxi driver and a Federal Express employee. ECBA attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Earl S. Ward, Elizabeth S. Saylor, David Lebowitz and Orion Danjuma, together with co-counsel Julia Kuan of Romano & Kuan, PLLC represent Mr. Vasquez’s widow. ECBA, along with Julia Kuan, also represent Michael Cosme and Carlos Perez, two of the five other wrongfully convicted individuals who spent 18 years in prison for two murders they did not commit. Mr. Cosme and Mr. Perez’s cases are still pending. To read the New York Times coverage, click here.


ECBA files a housing discrimination lawsuit in federal court against the Village of Great Neck Plaza and the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency (NCIDA)

ECBA filed a housing discrimination lawsuit in federal court against the predominantly white Village of Great Neck Plaza and the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency (NCIDA). The suit alleges that the Village zoning code discriminates against African Americans by imposing eligibility criteria for affordable housing that gives a preference to local residents. The complaint also alleges that the code excludes certain applicants for affordable housing based on age and disability. Finally, the complaint alleges that the NCIDA provided financial assistance for affordable housing in the Village subject to the zoning code’s discriminatory requirements and preferences. The two non-profit plaintiffs, Long Island Housing Services and Fair Housing Justice Center, are represented by ECBA’s Diane L. Houk and David A. Lebowitz.

To read the complaint, click here.


ECBA Files Lawsuits On Behalf of Two Wrongfully Convicted Men

Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, together with Romano & Kuan, PLLC filed lawsuits in the Southern District of New York today on behalf of Michael Cosme and Carlos Perez, who spent almost 18 years in prison for two murders they did not commit. The complaints allege that the two lead detectives manufactured the entire prosecution by coercing and bribing two “witnesses” to give false testimony and that the detectives suppressed evidence – including surveillance footage that undermined the testimony of a third “witness” and phone records that would have implicated the real murderers. Had the detectives followed up on basic leads instead of intentionally framing six innocent people (who collectively spent 100 years in jail), they would have caught the real murderers (who have since confessed) and prevented several heinous murders that those individuals instead remained free to commit. ECBA attorneys Earl Ward, Elizabeth S. Saylor, and David A. Lebowitz, along with Julia Kuan of Romano & Kuan, PLLC represent Mr. Cosme and Mr. Perez, as well as one of the other co-defendants whose case is already pending in federal court.

To read the New York Times’ article, click here. To read Mr. Perez’s complaint, click here and for Mr. Cosme’s complaint, click here.


ECBA and Legal Aid File Class Action on Behalf of Painters for the Rich and Famous Who Were Not Paid Overtime

ECBA, along with The Legal Aid Society, filed a class action lawsuit today in the Southern District of New York against two high-end decorative painting companies. The suit alleges that the companies failed to pay their painters hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime and stole thousands more in illegal “deductions” from the workers’ pay. The two companies—Atelier Mériguet-Carrère and Atelier Premiere, Inc. (also known as Premiere Painting)—are two companies that regularly work on the properties of the rich and famous including the homes of celebrities like Naomi Campbell and Valentino Garavani and foreign royalty like the Emir of Qatar—and even the French presidential palace.

Despite these companies’ great success in the realm of high-end painting, they have not shared the wealth with their employees. Instead, they have capitalized on their workers’ position of economic vulnerability to increase their own profits by denying their employees fundamental protections guaranteed by state and federal law. The lawsuit alleges that the Named Plaintiffs and their fellow painters were illegally classified as independent contractors, even though any reasonable observer would conclude that they were employees of the companies. The painters’ work was closely supervised by the Defendants, who told them where to work, when to show up, what equipment and techniques to use, what to wear at work, how to behave at job sites, and even what time to break for lunch.

The Plaintiffs are represented by ECBA attorneys David Lebowitz and Elizabeth S. Saylor, along with The Legal Aid Society’s Employment Law Project.

To read the complaint, click here.