Firm Secures Victory for Class of Tenants in Pro Bono Housing Matter
Capping a five-year legal battle, the Second Circuit on this day in 2013 affirmed a district court’s approval of a landmark settlement agreement between a class of 22,000 tenants and Pinnacle Group, one of New York City’s largest residential landlords that owned scores of rent-controlled apartments. Low-income tenants had accused the company of orchestrating a harassment campaign against them to force them to move out so that new tenants, not under rent control, would move in. The settlement included an independent and streamlined claims administration process; a $2.5 million legal assistance fund established by Pinnacle to assist the tenants in asserting their rights; an injunction wherein Pinnacle agreed to honor best practices enforced by a court-appointed claims administrator; and an audit of new rents, among other things. Fewer than 1 percent of the class members opted out or objected to the settlement, but all five named class representatives did object and voiced their objections to the district court. The district court conducted a fairness hearing, carefully considered all of the objections, and in June 2012, issued a 54-page opinion granting final approval to the settlement. The five named class representatives and three objecting class members then appealed to the Second Circuit, which called the district court’s decision “thorough” and “well-reasoned.” The Second Circuit also noted that the named class representatives were the “more militant members of the class” and pointed out that “the district court thoroughly and carefully reviewed the settlement and concluded that it was a fair and sensible way to resolve these claims.” The team representing the tenants included current attorneys Richard Levy, Ross Bricker, Marisa Perry and Joshua Rubin with assistance from Michael Brody, Matthew Hellman, Paul Smith and Elizabeth Edmonson.
Firm Wins $101 Jury Verdict for Ventas
On this day in 2009, a jury awarded $101 million to client Ventas, a leading healthcare real estate investment trust. Following a three-week trial in Kentucky, the verdict was awarded as compensatory damages against competitor HCP for tortious interference with business expectation arising out of Ventas’ acquisition of the Sunrise Senior Living REIT in 2007. HCP had topped Ventas' initial bid for Sunrise, which prompted Ventas to increase its offer by about $101 million. Ventas ultimately acquired Sunrise for about $2 billion and later sued HCP, arguing that it had interfered with Ventas' purchase agreement by making misleading public statements relating to the bid. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit not only affirmed the verdict but also remanded the case to the trial court to allow Ventas to pursue punitive damages. “The record is replete with evidence of intentional misrepresentations, deceit, and/or concealment of material facts by HCP,” the opinion read. For his work on the appeal, David Bradford was named American Lawyer’s “Litigator of the Week” in May 2011. In addition to David, the team resenting Ventas included current Partners Michael L. Cebula, Terri L. Mascherin, Paul M. Smith, Daniel J. Weiss and Bradley M. Yusim and Associates Anthony B. Borich, Rachel S. Morse and Shaun M. Van Horn.
Firm Convinces Supreme Court to Strike Down California's Law Restricting Violent Video Game Sales
Representing the Entertainment Merchants Association, a team including Paul Smith and Matthew Hellman convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a California law restricting the sale or rental of violent video games to minors on the grounds that the law ran afoul of the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech and expression. After the firm’s victory in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association on this day in 2011, Paul was quoted saying he felt as though he was on the “front lines of the digital war” and noted that the case and others like it would help to write the basic foundation of laws in the future.
Firm Scores Supreme Court Victory for Gay Rights in Lawrence v. Texas
To recognize “Gay Pride Month,” we highlight one case that many recognize as among the most important civil rights matters for the lesbian, gay and transgender community in a generation. In Lawrence v. Texas, Partner Paul Smith, working with the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, challenged the state of Texas’ anti-sodomy laws. When the Supreme Court struck down the statute on this day in 2003, it effectively invalidated anti-sodomy laws throughout the nation. Two gay men arrested after police walked in on them having sex "are entitled to respect for their private lives," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. "The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime."