Article

New York Supreme Court Denies Motion to Set Aside Rape Judgment Against Paul Haggis

In a victory for plaintiff Haleigh Breest and the principle that perpetrators of sexual assault must be held accountable, the New York State Supreme Court has denied Paul Haggis’ motion to set aside the jury verdict finding him civilly liable for raping Ms. Breest and to overturn the jury’s award of $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Haggis argued that the jury’s verdict should be set aside under CPLR §4404(a) because errors by the Court deprived him of a fair trial and, alternatively, that the jury’s $10 million damages award was excessive.

In denying Haggis’ motion in its entirety, the Court explained that judicial rulings are not prejudicial simply because they involve evidence of plaintiff’s guilt and noted that most of the Haggis’ motion “essentially seeks re-argument of prior issues which were briefed by counsel and determined by the Court.”

“The primary evidence in the case was the testimony of the Plaintiff and Defendant,” wrote the Court. “At the end of the day, the jury credited Plaintiff’s testimony, which described a forced and unwanted sexual assault and rape, and found Defendant’s version of a kittenish and flirtatious Betty Boop character, who bragged about her skills in fellatio, lacking in credibility.”

In upholding both the compensatory and punitive damages awarded by the jury after a 17-day trial, the Court regarded Ms. Breest’s “serious and long-lasting injuries” as well as comparable cases in which similar punitive damages were awarded.

“The #MeToo movement has significantly altered the public conscience on these issues in the years since it began in 2017,” the Court wrote in its opinion. “When most of the cases cited by Defendant were decided, the public, juries, and courts were much more likely to minimize the crime and the impact of rape. Insofar as the jury’s award in Ms. Breest’s case reflects the more enlightened collective views of today, it should not be disregarded or minimized.”

Ms. Breest is represented by ECBAWM partners Ilann M. Maazel and Zoe Salzman, who issued a joint statement. “We are pleased that Judge Kraus upheld the jury’s $10 million verdict in this case. The Judge correctly recognized that the jury’s verdict reflected how the #MeToo movement has significantly altered the public conscience about rape, and has even further validated the testimony of our brave client. This opinion is an important precedent for all survivors of sexual assault.” Jonathan Abady and Sara Luz Estela also represent Ms. Breest.

Article

ECBAWM Attorneys Earn Recognition from ALM for Jury Verdict in Sexual Assault Case

ECBAWM’s representation of Haleigh Breest in her sexual assault case against director Paul Haggis earned attorneys Zoe Salzman, Ilann M. Maazel, Jonathan Abady, Sara Luz Estela, and Noel León and paralegal Sophia Attie “Shout Out” honors in American Lawyer Media’s Litigator of the Week column. A jury found Haggis civilly liable for raping Ms. Breest and awarded a total judgment of $10 million.

Article

ECBAWM Wins $10M Jury Verdict in Sexual Assault Case

A jury has found film director Paul Haggis civilly liable for raping Haleigh Breest, a film industry publicist, in 2013. The jury heard testimony from Ms. Breest as well as from four other women who also accused Haggis of sexual misconduct.

Haggis was ordered to pay $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages, for a total verdict of $10 million.

Despite Haggis’ attempt to have the case dismissed in 2018, ECBAWM obtained a landmark ruling enforcing New York City’s Victims of Gender Motivated Violence Protection Act and allowing the case to proceed. The New York State Supreme Court’s decision was upheld on appeal.

ECBAWM also won Ms. Breest’s motion to compel Haggis to provide a sample of his DNA for comparison against a sample left in Ms. Breest’s tights.

“We’re pleased to see justice served for Ms. Breest,” said Ilann M. Maazel and Zoe Salzman who represented Ms. Breest, together with ECBAWM partner Jonathan S. Abady, associates Sara Luz Estela and Noel León, paralegal Sophia Attie, and former-associate Emma Freeman. Dan Cooper served as a trial consultant in the case.

“After the jury heard a mountain of undeniable evidence against Mr. Haggis, they did the right thing and held him accountable for his deplorable behavior. We commend Ms. Breest for the bravery it took to come forward. She stood up for herself and for all women,” said Maazel and Salzman.

Press
“Jury tells filmmaker Haggis to pay $10M total in rape suit,” Associated Press, also published by NBC News, CTV News, CBC News and The Hollywood Reporter
“Paul Haggis Fined Additional $2.5 Million in Punitive Damages in Civil Rape Trial,” Variety
“Oscar-winner Paul Haggis must pay total of $10 million in civil rape case,” Reuters
“‘Crash’ director Paul Haggis must pay $10M to rape accuser Haleigh Breest,” New York Post
“Paul Haggis Rape Trial Jury Tacks on $2.5 Million in Punitive Damages, Bringing Victim’s Award to $10 Million,” The Wrap
“Paul Haggis Ordered to Pay $2.5 Million More in Rape Trial Verdict,” Just Jared
“Filmmaker Paul Haggis ordered to pay total of $10M in rape lawsuit,” Fox News
“Paul Haggis Civil Trial: Jury Awards $2.5M In Punitive Damages; Oscar Winner Says He Will Appeal & “Die Clearing My Name” – Update,” Deadline
“Jury orders Oscar-winner Paul Haggis to pay additional $2.5m in rape lawsuit,” The Guardian
“Church of Scientology is on opposite ends of two celebrity rape cases in L.A., New York,” Los Angeles Times
“‘Broke’ Paul Haggis Must Pay Another $2.5M to Rape Accuser,” Daily Beast
“Jury Says Paul Haggis Raped Woman After Film Premiere,” New York Times
“Paul Haggis, director of ‘Crash,’ ordered to pay $7.5 million in rape case,” Washington Post
“Jury orders Filmmaker Paul Haggis to pay $7.5M in rape suit,” Associated Press, also published in the Wall Street Journal
“Paul Haggis Found Liable On All Counts In New York Rape Civil Trial; Jury Awards Millions In Damages; Oscar Winner Vows To “Fight To Clear My Name,” Deadline
“Paul Haggis Loses New York Civil Rape Case, Liable for $7.5 Million in Damages,” The Wrap
“Paul Haggis Found Liable on All Counts in Civil Rape Trial,” Variety
“Jury finds filmmaker Paul Haggis liable for rape of publicist, awarding her $7.5 million in compensatory damages,” Insider
“Oscar-Winning Writer Hit With $7.5M Rape Verdict In NY,” Law360
“‘Crash’ director Paul Haggis loses rape suit, owes $7.5M in damages to victim Haleigh Breest,” New York Post
“Film-maker Paul Haggis ordered to pay $7.5m to woman accusing him of rape,” The Guardian
“Filmmaker Paul Haggis is ordered to pay at least $7.5 million after being found liable in a sexual assault case involving a former publicist,” CNN
“Paul Haggis: Filmmaker ordered to pay $7.5m in rape suit,” BBC
“Paul Haggis accuser speaks out after director is found liable in $7.5 million rape lawsuit,” Fox News
“Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis found liable for raping woman in 2013, ordered to pay $7.5 million,” The Week
“Director Paul Haggis Found Liable in N.Y. Rape Case, Jury Awards $7.5 Million in Damages,” People
“Judge Orders Paul Haggis To Shell Out $7.5 Million After Director Was Found Liable In Rape Case,” OK! Magazine
“Paul Haggis Loses Civil Rape Case, Ordered to Pay Accuser $7.5 Million,” Rolling Stone
“Oscar-winner Paul Haggis ordered to pay $7.5 mln in civil rape case,” Reuters

Article

17 ECBAWM Attorneys Named to 2022 Super Lawyers Lists

The firm is pleased to announce that 17 of its attorneys have been named to the 2022 Super Lawyers lists.

Firm partners Jonathan S. Abady, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Richard D. Emery, Debra L. Greenberger, Daniel J. Kornstein, Hal R. Lieberman, Ilann M. Maazel, Zoe Salzman, Sam Shapiro, Earl S. Ward, and O. Andrew F. Wilson were named 2022 Super Lawyers.

Associates David Berman, Nick Bourland, Andrew Jondahl, Vivake Prasad, and Max Selver were named 2022 Super Lawyers Rising Stars.

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

Article

ECBAWM Represents Arizona Voters in Candidacy Challenges Under Fourteenth Amendment’s Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, O. Andrew F. Wilson, and Nick Bourland, alongside counsel at Free Speech for People and Barton Mendez Soto PLLC, represent a group of Arizona voters in three separate lawsuits challenging the eligibility of Representatives Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, who are running for reelection to the United States House of Representatives, and Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem, who is running for Arizona Secretary of State, to appear on the 2022 primary election ballot.

The lawsuits, which were filed on April 7, 2022 in the Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County, allege that Gosar, Biggs, and Finchem are constitutionally disqualified from public office under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, also known as the Disqualification Clause, on the grounds that they helped facilitate the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the United States Capitol.

For more information on the Disqualification Clause lawsuits against Gosar, Biggs, and Finchem, please see Free Speech For People’s April 7, 2022 press release.

Press
“Legal Effort Expands to Disqualify Republicans as ‘Insurrectionists’,” The New York Times

Article

19 ECBAWM Attorneys Named to 2021 Super Lawyers Lists

The firm is pleased to announce that 19 of its attorneys have been named to the 2021 Super Lawyers lists.

Firm partners Richard D. Emery, Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Jonathan S. Abady, Earl S. Ward, Ilann Margalit Maazel, Hal R. Lieberman, Daniel J. Kornstein, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Debra L. Greenberger, and Sam Shapiro were named 2021 Super Lawyers.

Firm partner Zoe Salzman and associates Emma Freeman, David Berman, Scout Katovich, Andrew Jondahl, Nick Bourland, Ananda Burra, and Vivake Prasad were named 2021 Super Lawyers Rising Stars.

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

Article

JJ Velazquez’s Sentence Is Commuted After Fighting for His Freedom for 23 Years

On August 17, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo commuted the sentence of ECBAWM client Jon-Adrian (“JJ”) Velazquez. Mr. Velazquez has maintained his innocence ever since he was wrongfully convicted in 1998 for a murder he had nothing to do with. Now he has been released from prison and reunited with his family, friends, and supporters.

While incarcerated in the New York correctional system for over 23 years, Mr. Velazquez seized every opportunity to learn, support his peers, and give back—all while fighting for his freedom. He emerged as a leader at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility, where, among other achievements, he earned his college degree with honors, founded a youth program to combat gun violence, organized nonviolence workshops for incarcerated people and their families, and led various fundraising efforts to support his community on the outside.

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan Abady, Earl Ward, Sam Shapiro, and Nick Bourland represented JJ Velazquez in his clemency efforts.

Article

Second Circuit Court Affirms Ruling that Trump Family, Corporation Cannot Compel Arbitration in ACN Fraud Case

On July 28, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court’s ruling that Donald Trump, his immediate family, and The Trump Corporation cannot compel arbitration of the fraud case pending against them in the Southern District of New York. The case, filed in the fall of 2018, alleges the Trumps defrauded investors into purchasing memberships in a multi-level marketing scheme called ACN. The Trumps had appealed to the Second Circuit arguing that the fraud case could only proceed in private arbitration because of agreements that the investors had signed with ACN. The Second Circuit affirmed the District Court’s denial of the Trumps’ motion to compel arbitration and ruled that the Trumps and ACN were never sufficiently connected such that the investors would have understood that any of their contractual obligations with ACN would correspond to obligations with the Trumps.

“We are glad that the Second Circuit has affirmed Judge Schofield’s well-reasoned opinion. We can now press forward in our fight to obtain justice for our clients and hard-working consumers across the county who fell victim to Donald Trump and his family’s fraud. We look forward to receiving discovery from the Trumps, ACN, and the producers of ‘The Apprentice’ as we move into the next stage of our litigation,” said Andrew G. Celli, Jr., an ECBAWM attorney for the Plaintiff investors.

The investors are represented by ECBAWM attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jr.Jonathan S. AbadyMatthew D. BrinckerhoffO. Andrew F. WilsonKatherine RosenfeldSam ShapiroDavid Berman, and Nick Bourland.

Article

ECBAWM Files Excessive Force Lawsuit on Behalf of Man Paralyzed by NYPD Officers

On June 2, 2021, ECBAWM filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Peyman Bahadoran, a former Wall Street trader who is now paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by NYPD officers during a non-violent confrontation. As detailed in the complaint, Mr. Bahadoran—who suffers from bipolar disorder—experienced a manic episode on June 4, 2020 outside a Manhattan deli after days of seeing violence between police and Black Lives Matter protesters outside his home near Union Square. NYPD officers on the scene did not even attempt to use non-lethal techniques to subdue Mr. Bahadoran. Instead, two NYPD officers shot Mr. Bahadoran in the spine and left arm. He was unarmed and non-violent at the time the officers shot him. He is now paralyzed and unable to control any body function below his waist.

Security and body camera footage of the shooting have been widely circulated in the news media and confirm that the officers’ force was excessive. “The body camera footage shows clearly that Mr. Bahadoran was unarmed when shot,” said Mr. Bahadoran’s lawyer Earl Ward. “It further disproves the claim by the department that he was ‘reaching’ and ‘lunging.’ He posed no deadly risk and now there’s a bullet lodged in his spine and he may never walk again.”

ECBAWM’s Earl Ward, Jonathan Abady, and Marissa Benavides represent Mr. Bahadoran in the suit.

Read the filed complaint

Article

ECBAWM Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Ocoee and Windermere (FL) Police

Jean Samuel Celestin died unnecessarily at the hands of Florida police officers on April 11, 2019. Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Ocoee (FL), the town of Windermere (FL), four Ocoee Police Department (“OPD”) officers, and one Windermere Police Department (“WPD”) officer, on behalf of Mr. Celestin’s family. The suit, filed along with co-counsel King & Markman, P.A., alleges that Mr. Celestin was deprived of his constitutional rights when the officers physically restrained to him to the point that he lost consciousness and died. Mr. Celestin’s family seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

On April 11, 2019, Mr. Celestin’s mother and sister called 911 to ask for assistance because Mr. Celestin was in a mental health crisis and was expressing delusional thoughts. The road patrol officers, violating standard procedures for interacting with people in distress, treated Mr. Celestin as a dangerous criminal, rather than a mental health patient in need of emergency treatment. Though Crisis Intervention Teams have existed in Ocoee for over 20 years, in order to reduce the risk of serious injury or death during an emergency interaction between persons with mental illness and police officers, the responding officers failed to engage such a team.

The officers also refused to handcuff Mr. Celestin when he offered his wrists in surrender, and tased him multiple times. They also restrained him with a controversial “hobble” restraint, also known as a “hogtie,” which has been known to cause death by positional asphyxia since at least 1995. OPD and WPD officers left Mr. Celestin hogtied and face-down in the grass for almost an entire minute. The coroner’s report indicates that this hogtie was a proximate cause of Mr. Celestin’s death.

“Samuel Celestin is no longer with us for one reason and one reason only: because police officers treated a sick person in need of help like a dangerous criminal who had just committed a violent felony,” said Andrew G. Celli, Jr., an ECBAWM attorney representing the plaintiff. “The failings that killed Samuel are systemic; they reflect inadequate training and the misuse of equipment; extremely poor tactical conduct by the officers—including intentional escalation of a conflict when de-escalation was called for; and an utter failure to assist a person in distress. This case will expose all of that and more.”

Along with Mr. Celli, the Celestin family is represented by ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan Abady, Earl Ward, and Andrew Jondahl, along with Jeremy Markman from King & Markman, P.A. in Orlando, FL. For additional information, see this press release and the complaint.

Press
“Family of man who died after being tased by Ocoee police discusses newly filed lawsuit,” WFTV
“Family suing Ocoee police after deadly encounter,” Fox 35 Orlando
“Police who tased Ocoee man during mental health crisis should face charges in his death, family says,” Orlando Sentinel

 

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