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Statement of Counsel for the Former Bloomberg Staffers Who Filed a Nationwide Class Action Lawsuit Today Against Mike Bloomberg 2020

“Today our clients, three former field organizers for Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign who worked in Georgia, Utah, and Washington state, filed a nationwide class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York alleging that the campaign broke its promise to provide its field staffers the opportunity to work on the general election campaign for Mike Bloomberg 2020. The complaint speaks for itself. Although our clients would like to speak publicly about their experiences, they are potentially subject to a confidentiality and non-disparagement agreement with Mike Bloomberg 2020. We respectfully request that the Bloomberg campaign release our clients and the other field staffers from that agreement, even though it may not be enforceable.”

The field staffers who filed the suit, Alexis Sklair, Nathaniel Brown, and Sterling Rettke, are represented by Peter Romer-Friedman of Gupta Wessler PLLC, and Ilann M. Maazel and David Berman of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP.

To learn more, visit our website here.

Read coverage by The New York Times, Politico, Huffington Post, and Axios.

Contacts:

Peter Romer-Friedman, Principal, Gupta Wessler PLLC,
peter@guptawessler.com

Ilann M. Maazel, Partner, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP,
imaazel@ecbalaw.com

Article

Family of Young Disabled Man Who Died in New York State Group Home Brings Federal Civil Rights Suit

This morning, the family of C.B., a young man with cognitive disabilities who passed away in April 2018, filed a civil rights lawsuit against employees of a group home run by New York’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (“OPWDD”). C.B. was found dead in his room at the Valley Ridge Center for Intensive Treatment on the morning of April 9, 2018, after Ashley Sessions, a Valley Ridge employee, failed to check in on him during the night as required.

C.B. died from pulmonary embolism and heart failure. The day before his death, C.B. and his mother told State employees he couldn’t breathe. The State ignored him. C.B.’s arms and legs were massively swollen with fluid; he gained 50 pounds in a single year; he exhibited the telltale signs of heart failure. But Staff not only did nothing to help him; they repeatedly encouraged him to drink more fluids, contributing to his death.

Even as Sessions failed to check on C.B. as required during the night of his death, C.B. asphyxiated on fluids in his lungs. Sessions then lied to the police to try to cover up her misconduct. She ultimately plead guilty to the crime of filing false statements.

C.B.’s mother, J.M., federal filed a lawsuit alleging that Valley Ridge employees were deliberately indifferent to C.B.’s health and welfare and that the little medical care they did provide was woefully deficient.

“C.B.’s tragic death should never have happened,” C.B.’s family’s attorney, Ilann M. Maazel, of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, said. “State employees ignored the obvious signs that a disabled man’s health was rapidly deteriorating, then left him alone to die a horrible death in his bedroom. It’s unconscionable.”

“C.B.’s dire condition was plain to see,” added Samuel Shapiro, another attorney representing the family, “but the staff here just didn’t care enough to look.”

Read the complaint here.

ECBA’s Ilann M. Maazel, Samuel Shapiro, and Ali Frick represent C.B.’s family.

Article

Paul Haggis Loses Appeal on Gender Motivated Violence Protection Law

The New York Appellate Division, First Department ruled on December 26, 2019 that rape and sexual assault are necessarily motivated at least in part by animus towards the victim’s gender, and therefore prohibited by the New York City Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law.

The case is Breest v. Haggis, one of the few cases of the MeToo era that is being litigated in civil court. Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP represents Haleigh Breest, who alleges that Hollywood director Paul Haggis raped and assaulted her after a film premiere in 2013. The First Department affirmed the lower court’s decision denying Haggis’s motion to dismiss the case. In so doing, the Court rejected Haggis’s argument that, in order to plead a claim, the plaintiff had to allege that he had expressed hatred towards all women. In the first appellate ruling to ever address this important law, the Court made it clear that it did not agree with other lower court decisions that created “insuperable barriers” for sexual assault victims to plead their claims and seek justice.

The Court held that: “Rape and sexual assault are, by definition, actions taken against the victim without the victim’s consent. Without consent, sexual acts such as those alleged in the complaint are a violation of the victim’s bodily autonomy and an expression of the perpetrator’s contempt for that autonomy. Coerced sexual activity is dehumanizing and fear-inducing. Malice or ill will based on gender is apparent from the alleged commission of the act itself. Animus inheres where consent is absent.”

“This is a historic ruling that breathes new life into the New York City law against gender motivated violence,” said ECBA partner Zoe Salzman. “This decision paves the way for a jury to hold Paul Haggis accountable at trial.”

ECBA attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Ilann M. Maazel, Zoe Salzman, and Emma Freeman represent Haleigh Breest.

Read the First Department’s decision here.

Article

NBC News features OSU survivor Stephen Snyder-Hill

OSU survivor Stephen Snyder-Hill was profiled by NBC News. Snyder-Hill, a prominent LGBTQ activist and a military veteran, is now advocating for sexual assault survivors in a case against The Ohio State University. The federal lawsuit alleges rape, assault and molestation by former OSU team doctor Richard Strauss over the course of decades. The complaint to Snyder-Hill., et al. v. The Ohio State University, 18-CV-00736, is available here.

“It’s about all the sexual assault survivors that are out there that might not have a voice,” Synder-Hill said to NBC News. “This is our fight, not just my fight.”

Snyder-Hill and over 80 other survivors are represented by Ilann M. Maazel, Debra Greenberger, and Marissa Benavides of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, Scott E. Smith of Scott Elliot Smith LPA, and Adele Kimmel and Alexandra Brodsky of Public Justice. More on the case is available at www.osusurvivors.com.

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43 Survivors File New Complaint Against Ohio State

November 7, 2019 – 43 additional survivors of the ongoing sexual assault scandal at The Ohio State University (OSU) filed a new lawsuit alleging years of rape, assault and molestation by former team doctor Richard Strauss. The lawsuit alleges that OSU’s “culture of institutional indifference to the rights and safety of its students has permitted serial sexual predators and harassers to thrive at the university for the last four decades.”

The plaintiffs in this case are represented by Ilann M. Maazel, Debra Greenberger, and Marissa Benavides of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, Scott E. Smith and Brian Noethlich of Scott Elliot Smith LPA, and Adele Kimmel and Alexandra Brodsky of Public Justice. This is the second case brought by these law firms against OSU and they collectively represent over 80 survivors. More on the case is available at www.osusurvivors.com.

Press release is available here. To read the Washington Post’s coverage of the case, click here.

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Ohio State Admits Dr. Strauss Committed As Many Rapes As the Golden State Killer

In an astonishing development, The Ohio State University has now admitted that its employee, Dr. Richard Strauss, committed 47 rapes and 1,429 sexual assaults of student-patients, over a period of two decades. The admissions, from OSU’s Annual Security Report and website, are here (p. 61, admitting to 992 sexual assaults and 30 rapes reported in 2018) and here (admitting to 437 sexual assaults and 17 rapes by Strauss reported so far this year). (The Golden State Killer is reported to have committed approximately 45-50 rapes.)

These numbers dwarf the previously reported 177 sexual assaults of OSU student-patients in a report from Perkins Coie, the law firm hired by The Ohio State University’s Special Counsel. That report found that “Despite the persistence, seriousness, and regularity of … complaints” of sexual abuse from students since 1979, “no meaningful action was taken by the University to investigate the concerns until January 1996.”

“This is one of the biggest sexual abuse scandals in U.S. history, said Ilann M. Maazel, co-counsel for survivor Steve Snyder-Hill and 76 other plaintiffs. “No words can describe the scope, the scale, or the appalling nature of OSU’s failure to protect its own students.”

“Ohio State claims it is being transparent by reporting nearly 1500 incidents of rape and sexual assault by Dr. Strauss, but it still refuses to disclose how many students were abused,” said Adele P. Kimmel, also co-counsel. “Ohio State knows how many students have reported abuse by Strauss and should disclose that to the public. It is clearly far more than the 177 students referenced in the Perkins Coie report.”

“This new information further shows OSU has known but continues to conceal evidence of Dr. Strauss’s serial sexual abuse. They were guilty of covering it up then and they are guilty of covering it up today,” said Scott E. Smith, also co-counsel.

The plaintiffs in this case are represented by Ilann M. Maazel, Debra Greenberger, and Marissa Benavides of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, Scott E. Smith and Brian Noethlich of Scott Elliot Smith LPA, and Adele Kimmel of Public Justice. More on the case is available at www.osusurvivors.com.

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“Bronx Zoo” Case Settles for $6 Million and Transfer of Control of State Facility

As reported in the New York Times, the New York Post, the Daily News, and elsewhere,…

New York, NY – This morning, three families settled a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court alleging abuse of disabled residents in a State-run group home in the Bronx. The lawsuit revealed years of shocking abuse and neglect in the Bronx home, including staff who gave disabled residents black eyes, pulled their hair, spit in their faces, kicked them, sexually abused them, withheld food from them, showered them in frigid water, and botched their medical care.

The group home is run by the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (“OPWDD”), a New York State agency. Whistleblowers testified that staff acted “like prison guards,” “operated like a gang,” and treated disabled resident like “animals in the zoo.”[1] Some staff referred to the group home as “the Bronx Zoo.” In sworn testimony, OPWDD’s then-Commissioner, Kerry A. Delaney, described State employees’ conduct as “utterly shocking,” admitted that defendants “failed their duty to protect individuals in that home,” and called the home “a disaster.” A copy of the complaint is here.

Under the settlement, the State will pay $6 million, believed to be one of the largest settlements in OPWDD history. In addition, the State will permanently relinquish control of the home, known as the Union Avenue IRA, to a nonprofit provider. Finally, the individual staff will never be permitted to reenter Union Avenue as long as any of the three disabled residents reside there.

“From the very top to the very bottom, OPWDD failed my sister on every level. I hope and pray that all the individuals living at Union Avenue will now live happy, healthy, fear-free lives, once OPWDD turns over control of Union Avenue to a nonprofit provider,” said Laura Kearins, sister of one of the plaintiffs. “I’m completely saddened and heartbroken. How can people prey on the innocent with no remorse? We will move forward trying to repair the damage that was done,” said Barbara Melendez, sister to another plaintiff.

“This is one of the most appalling disability abuse cases I’ve seen in over twenty years of practice,” said Ilann M. Maazel, lead counsel for the families, and a partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady.  “How could so many New York State employees brutalize so many people, for so long, while no staff or supervisor did a thing about it? This case is a wake-up call for massive reform in this State agency.”

Even today, many former Union Avenue staff with claims of abuse or neglect substantiated by the Justice Center work with disabled residents in other group homes run by New York State; many were not disciplined at all. David Lebowitz, another attorney for the families, called this “a scandal and a disgrace.” “Hopefully, this case and this settlement can shine a light on the structural issues that allow abusive staff to work with disabled people without consequence,” said Ashok Chandran, another attorney for the families.

Maazel and ECBA were also counsel in the cases of Jonathan Carey, Eddie Velasquez, and K.C.

For more information, contact:

Ilann M. Maazel, David Lebowitz, or Ashok Chandran
Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP (in New York)
212-763-5000
imaazel@ecbalaw.com
dlebowitz@ecbalaw.com
achandran@ecbalaw.com

 

[1] As one staff member, Shirlynn Thomas, testified: “Q: Would you ever leave your child in the care of Linton, Conner, Tucker or Teams? A: Not my dog.  I wouldn’t leave my dog.”

Article

Ten ECBA Attorneys Named as Super Lawyers; Four Named as Rising Stars

ECBA is proud to announce that partners Richard EmeryAndrew CelliMatthew BrinckerhoffJonathan AbadyIlann MaazelEarl WardHal LiebermanDan KornsteinAndrew Wilson, and Elizabeth Saylor were named as Super Lawyers for 2019. Partners Zoe Salzman and Sam Shapiro and associates David Lebowitz and Alanna Kaufman were named as Rising Stars.

The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thompson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found here.

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