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Lawsuit: Village prosecuted couple despite contrary evidence
Government – Civil Rights – Intentional Torts – Malicious Prosecution
Harry Wilner and Judith Wilner v. Roslyn Village of Richard Barbieri, Wade Curry, John P. Gibbons,
June 8, 2017
Judith Wilner (Female),
Estate of Harry Wilner (Male)
E. Christopher Murray;
Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, P.C.;
Judith Wilner, Estate of Harry Wilner
Village of Roslyn,
John P. Gibbons Jr.
Melissa L. Holtzer;
Sokoloff Stern LLP;
Wade Curry, Richard Barbieri, Village of Roslyn, John P. Gibbons Jr.
On Oct. 12, 2005, plaintiff’s decedent Harry Wilner and his wife, plaintiff Judith Wilner, received a letter from the village of Roslyn. The village’s prosecutor for zoning, John Gibbons Jr., explained that the Wilners were being deemed liable for property damage caused by storm-generated runoff that originated from their property, which was located at 6 Verity Lane, in Roslyn. The village’s code-enforcement officer, Wade Curry, had opined that the runoff flowed from an improper drainage system that the Wilners created. The village’s superintendent of buildings and public works, Richard Barbieri, later recommended remedial actions, which the Wilners were directed to perform. Criminal charges were ultimately filed against the Wilners, but the charges were dismissed after the village determined that the property damage was partially or entirely a result of a failure of one of the village’s drainage systems. The Wilners sued Barbieri, Curry, Gibbons and the village of Roslyn. The Wilners alleged that they were maliciously prosecuted. The Wilners further alleged that the defendants’ actions constituted a deprivation of the equal-protection right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. Mr. Wilner died after the lawsuit had been filed. His claim was continued by his estate. Gibbons was dismissed via summary judgment. The matter proceeded to a trial against Barbieri, Curry and the village of Roslyn. Plaintiffs’ counsel claimed that Curry supported the village’s actions despite knowing that a dry well, located on a nonparty’s property, had caused or contributed to the runoff on the Wilners’ property. Plaintiffs’ counsel further claimed that the village continued its prosecution of the Wilners as it accumulated evidence that the village’s own drainage system contributed to the property damage that led to the criminal charges. Defense counsel contended that the Wilners’ prosecution was pursued in good faith.
Ms. Wilner claimed that the criminal charges and ensuing court appearances caused her and her husband emotional distress. She sought recovery of damages for emotional suffering, and she also sought recovery of about $20,000 for legal fees incurred as a result of the matter.
The jury rendered a mixed verdict: It found that the village of Roslyn was liable for malicious prosecution and violating the 14th Amendment, but liability was not assigned to Barbieri or Curry. The jury determined that the plaintiffs’ damages totaled $550,000.
Estate of Harry Wilner: $250,000 Personal Injury: denial of civil rights; $25,000 Personal Injury: emotional distress; Judith Wilner: $250,000 Personal Injury: denial of civil rights; $25,000 Personal Injury: emotional distress
Leonard D. Steinman
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs’ counsel. Additional information was gleaned from court documents. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.