Insight

New York In the Law

Courts in the New York area have continued to hear cases, many of them years-long battles that are still ongoing. Here is a look at some recent court cases.

New York In the Law
GS

Gregory Sirico

December 6, 2021 06:00 AM

Firm Recovers $24 Million From Gap and Old Navy in Rent Dispute

In June of 2020, during the height of the pandemic, major corporations and local businesses alike began seeing the financial strain COVID-19 had to offer. At that time, both Gap and Old Navy LLC. filed requests with their landlord, the Broadway Leasing Company, to terminate their long term lease agreement at their flagship stores in Times Square, claiming financial difficulties due to COVID-19. Simply put, both companies attempted to skip out on their outstanding rent obligations, which amounted to millions in past due and current payments accrued.

Following this request, the landlord immediately filed legal claims against both companies with the New York State Supreme Court and the trial commenced. Rosenberg & Estis, the firm tasked with representing the landlord, initially succeeded in the court’s adjustment of the tenants Yellowstone injunction, leaving them with a bond of $5.8 million. Under New York state law, a Yellowstone injunction is a court proceeding, usually initiated by a tenant in financial default, when the landlord wishes to terminate a lease agreement. In this particular case, both tenants were already in financial default prior to March 2020, therefore dismissing their claims that the pandemic qualifies as a “casualty” under the leases.

As a result, all the tenants’ claims were denied by the New York State Supreme Court, releasing the $5.8 million bond to the landlord. Additionally, Gap and Old Navy LLC were held liable for their landlord’s legal fees as well as the remaining $24 million in rent, plus interest accrued.

Landmark Education Settlement in New Jersey State Prisons

On October 14, Proskauer Rose LLP, in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) as well as the Department of Education (NJDOE), achieved a landmark financial settlement that will ensure all children who’re entitled to special education services in NJDOC custody are guaranteed those resources. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), both NJDOC and NJDOE are now required to identify students entitled to special education resources, create Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) fitting each students needs and provide a minimum of four hours per day of instruction in a regular classroom environment.

After nearly four years of work, the collected efforts of Proskauer Rose, the American Civil Liberties of Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) and Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) are paying off, allowing roughly 400 special needs children in NJDOC custody to now have access to educational resources. First filing legal claims back in 2017, settlement hearings lasted more than three years due to the untimely arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. As it stands, a class action settlement fairness hearing is scheduled for January 26, 2022, leaving these groundbreaking regulatory changes on hold until the new year.

Courts Reject Misappropriation Claims Over Murder Based Docudrama

On June 24, the Third Department of the New York’s Appellate Courts reversed their summary judgement in regard to the Lifetime Network movie “Romeo Killer: The Chris Porco Story”. Released in 2013, the movie chronicles the story of Porco’s traumatic childhood, his eventual murder of his parents, and the trial that followed. Lifetime’s legal representation came from Ballard Spahr attorneys Dave Schulz, Chuck Tobin and Lizzie Seidlin-Bernstein.

Porco, who filed his first lawsuit against Lifetime back in 2013, claimed they used “invented dialogue, fictional and composite characters and flashbacks” in the movie, also asserting that his claims were in accordance with Section 51 of New York Civil Rights Law. Section 51 states an individual’s rights to protection over their identity and the unauthorized use of it for advertising, commercial or trade purposes. Frequently, New York courts make exceptions to Section 51 for newsworthy events or other content bearing public interest, but in Porco’s case, the Lifetime movie blatantly materialized and fictionalized his story rather than constructing a news report.

In a completely unanimous decision, The Third Department’s ruling on the matter has provided filmmakers, content creators and producers currently working on autobiographical projects with much needed clarification and guidance on just how far Section 51’s reach extends.

Headline Image: ROMEO KILLER: THE CHRISTOPHER PORCO STORY, 2013, ED ARAQUEL/LIFETIME.

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