LITIGATION PRACTICE UPDATE

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Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC



FOCUS ON LITIGATION - TEAM APPROACH BRINGS SUCCESS

SWC's Litigation and Appeals Practice Group achieves success through teamwork. The Firm represents municipal, business, not-for-profit, institutional, and individual clients in a diverse range of civil cases in state and federal trial and appellate courts. The Group consists of a team of attorneys headed by Jon A. Ward, with over 27 years of commercial litigation experience, and Christian Browne, with 14 years of experience.

They are supported by a group of talented litigators, including Firm Member Adam Koblenz; Partners Miriam Villani, Robert Abiuso, Joseph Bjarnson, Ralph Branciforte, Elaine Colavito, John Farrell, and Andrew Roth; and Associates Michael Barone, Joshua Brookstein, Nicholas Cappadora and Matthew McCann.

The Group meets weekly to review cases and decide strategies that are cost-effective, creative and founded in the law.

The Group collaborates with other attorneys in the Firm to draw upon their experience in various areas of the law, including corporate, commercial, real estate, municipal, labor and employment, zoning and land use, and environmental law.

Conference Table

Here are several specific examples of the nature of the cases and the group's achievements:

Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

The Firm continues to maintain a strong and diverse commercial litigation and arbitration practice, representing clients in complex contract, tort, and statutory claims involving business transactions, as well as the ownership, management and dissolution of business entities. Among other matters, the Firm is currently representing a client in a lawsuit over the ownership of an $18.5 million hotel in Manhattan, and is representing a member of a Delaware limited liability company in a dispute over whether the company's operating agreement contains an unenforceable "agreement to agree" to partition a 36-acre property in Brookville, New York. The Firm also obtained on order for the Nassau County Supreme Court Commercial Division dismissing a claim of tortious interference with contract against one its clients.

Municipal Litigation

The Firm's municipal litigation practice took on a major case in 2018, when Suffolk County retained the Firm to defend the County in a lawsuit commenced by the Long Island Power Authority in Suffolk County Supreme Court seeking to annul $22 million in real property tax liens pending against LIPA's electrical grid. The County purchased the liens at its annual tax sales for nonpayment of taxes on the properties. The Firm is also prosecuting claims on behalf of the County against the Towns in Suffolk County to recoup the unpaid taxes, in the event that the tax liens are voided by the court. The case involves complex issues arising under the LIPA Act, the Suffolk County Tax Act, and the Real Property Tax Law.

The City of Glen Cove also retained the Firm to defend it on an appeal from a successful ruling that the Firm obtained from the Nassau County Supreme Court dismissing a challenge to the City's approval of a 176-unit condominium project. Property owners adjacent to the project sought to annul the approval on the ground that the City failed to comply with the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) when it approved the project. The Supreme Court disagreed, finding that the City had conducted a proper environmental impact review of the project under SEQRA.

Zoning and Land-Use Litigation

The Firm represents developers and neighboring property owners in many land-use litigations. In 2018, the Firm successfully prosecuted a mandamus action against the City of Long Beach Zoning Board of Appeals to compel it to hold a hearing on a client's challenge to the issuance of a building permit to construct two (2), fifteen (15) story apartment buildings on the Superblock. After holding the judicially ordered hearing, the Long Beach Zoning Board of Appeals revoked the building permit.

The Firm also obtained orders from the Nassau County Supreme Court annulling a zoning moratorium that prevented the Firm's clients from proceeding with their development plans. In one case, the Town of Hempstead adopted a moratorium which prevented a Firm client from proceeding with plans to redevelop a 120-acre golf course with a residential subdivision. The Nassau County Supreme Court found that the moratorium was unconstitutional and struck it down. In another case involving a moratorium, the Nassau County Supreme Court annulled a zoning moratorium adopted by the Village of Rockville Centre which also prevented the Firm's client from proceeding with a subdivision of his property.

In another noteworthy decision, the Nassau County Supreme Court annulled a condition set by the Town of Hempstead Board of Appeals requiring owner-occupancy of a two-family dwelling in Bellmore. The court ruled that the condition was illegal because it was set on the property owner, not on the property itself.

The Firm is also prosecuting an appeal in the Appellate Division, Second Department, on behalf of a faith-based, not-for-profit organization which was denied land-use approvals to renovate an existing camp and school facility in a local village.

Environmental Litigation and Enforcement Proceedings

The Firm litigates cases involving governmental enforcement proceedings, including claims relating to the source of contamination and remediation.

Labor and Employment-Related Claims

The Firm concentrates its practice in labor and employment law on behalf of management and employment practices liability. The Firm regularly represents clients in all issues arising from the employer-employee relationship, including the defense of employment discrimination and sexual harassment matters, compliance with workplace regulations and employment statutes, wage and hour lawsuits, retaliation, wage and hour audits initiated by both the New York State and United States Department of Labor, and investigations commenced by various civil rights agencies, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the New York State Division of Human Rights and the New York State Unemployment Insurance Board. The Firm also develops corporate policies and procedures, employee handbooks, employment applications, employment contracts, and restrictive covenants for use by employers, and offers training to clients on employment law compliance.

In addition to providing daily counsel to the Firm's management clients, the Firm also represents employers in both New York and federal court in employment discrimination, hostile work environment, sexual harassment and wage and hour litigation.

Real Property and Title Litigation

The Firm's real property and title litigation practice includes representation of clients in disputes involving, among other things, contracts for the purchase and sale of real property, commercial leases, trespass, lateral support, adverse possession, prescriptive, implied, and express easements, restrictive covenants, mortgage foreclosures, mechanic's liens, tax liens, and lien priorities.

In 2018, the Firm successfully prosecuted several actions on behalf of Nassau County commercial property owners who lost ownership of their properties for nonpayment of real property taxes based on violations of their statutory and constitutional rights to due process of law.

The Firm also successfully lifted a stay in Federal Bankruptcy Court to allow a client to complete a foreclosure on a commercial property in Roslyn, New York, and obtained a stay from the Appellate Division, Second Department, which prevented a lender from continuing to prosecute a foreclosure action against a church until the church's appeal is decided.

The Firm was also retained by a commercial property owner to prosecute a quiet-title claim against New York State to confirm that the client has the right to use a right-of-way over State land that derives from a condemnation by the State in 1970.

The Firm also handles personal injury, medical malpractice, and family law litigation.

For more information on the Firm's Litigation and Appeals Practice Group, please call Jon Ward at (516) 228-1300. You can also learn more about the practice group by visiting its practice area or representative matters pages.

Contact Us

Main Office: 333 Earle Ovington Boulevard, Suite 601, Uniondale, New York 11553 • Telephone: (516) 228-1300 • Telecopier: (516) 228-0038
New York City Office: 405 Lexington Avenue, 26th Floor, New York, New York 10174 • Telephone: (212) 829-4375
Suffolk County Office: 1300 Veterans Highway, Suite 100, Hauppauge, New York 11788 • Telephone: (631) 203-4900
Syosset Office: 116 Jackson Avenue, Syosset, New York 11791 • Telephone: (516) 921-1000

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