A Brooklyn appellate court has upheld the dismissal of a $45 million defamation suit that a developer brought against opponents of a proposed camp.
Southampton Day Camp Realty sought to turn a tennis club into a day camp. But some residents and neighborhood associations were concerned about possible environmental impact of the plans.
Days before a zoning and planning board hearing, a flyer was distributed that urged attendance, saying, “Should mega development be allowed despite spewing sewage?”
Southampton Day and its manager, Jay Jacobs, who is the chairman of the Nassau County Democratic Committee, sued the two men identified on the flyer as contacts. The pair denied drafting the flier.
In July 2012, then-Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice John Jones Jr. (See Profile) tossed the lawsuit, saying it constituted strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPP) (NYLJ, July 12, 2012).
On Wednesday, the Appellate Division, Second Department, affirmed dismissal and the award of legal fees to the residents.
“Contrary to the plaintiffs’ assertions, the statements at issue were made in an effort to garner support for the defendants’ opposition to the plaintiffs’ proposed plan to develop the property into a children’s day camp,” the panel said.
It also upheld the refusal to impose damages against the residents as it was not shown the action was solely meant to “harass, intimidate, punish, or otherwise maliciously inhibit their rights to free speech, petition, or association.”
Southampton Day Camp Realty was represented by partners Darius Chafizadeh and Thomas Garry, and associate Christopher Feldman of Harris Beach in Uniondale.
Stuart Summit, a partner at Phillips Nizer and Jeffrey L. Shore, counsel, represented the residents.