Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Leonard Austin has ordered an attorney to accept a reduction in damages from a man who allegedly repeatedly threatened him or to undergo a new damages trial.
Last year, a jury found William T. Eves, Jr. liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress and ordered him to pay $300,000 to his ex-wife’s matrimonial attorney, John Ray of John Ray and Associates in Miller Place. Eves moved to set aside the verdict.
In a recent decision, Justice Austin declined to overturn the verdict, sayng Mr. Ray deserved some compensation. However, he ruled that the jury’s award was too high and ordered a reduction to $50,000. Contacted Friday, Mr. Ray, of John Ray and Associates in Miller Place, said he would consent to the reduction.
Mr. Eves and Mr. Ray first met at a Central Islip courthouse, where Mr. Ray was representing Mr. Eves’ ex-wife on a post-judgment matrimonial matter.
“The evidence demonstrated that on April 29, 1998 . . . Eves said to Ray, ‘I am going to hurt you. You look worried and you should be,’” Justice Austin wrote in his decision, Eves v. Ray, 20770-99. “Thereafter, Eves and Ray exchanged epithets, calling each other ‘scumbags.’”
The decision will be published on Thursday.
At the time of this confrontation, Mr. Ray knew of Mr. Eves’ violent past, according to the decision. Mr. Ray’s client, Judith Eves, had told him that Mr. Eves was a “gun nut,” that he beat her and his son and that he was “extremely dangerous to any man within her orbit.” Mr. Ray “became aware” of a number of specific violent incidents, Justice Austin wrote, including his assault of an assistant district attorney.
In a subsequent encounter at a courthouse elevator, Mr. Eves “stepped up” to Mr. Ray and said, “I’m going to hurt you,” Justice Austin wrote. He then approached Mr. Ray in the courthouse parking lot and repeated, “You look worried. You should be.”
Mr. Ray signed a criminal information against Mr. Eves and obtained a temporary order of protection for himself and his staff. And when Mr. Eves failed to allow Ms. Eves to see their daughter ? in what Mr. Ray believed to be a violation of a court-negotiated agreement ? Mr. Ray brought an application to hold Mr. Eves in contempt.
On the day Mr. Ray presented the contempt application to Mr. Eves, another threatening encounter ensued. “Wait until you see what I’ll do to your office,” Mr. Eves said.
Mr. Ray contacted the police, who arrested Mr. Eves on charges of criminal contempt, for violating the order of protection.
Suffolk County District Court Judge John Duffy, however, dropped the charge because Mr. Eves never knew about the order of protection. On a separate occasion, Mr. Ray said on Friday, Judge Duffy also dropped charges against Mr. Eves of making threats.
Mr. Eves initiated the present claim against Mr. Ray, alleging malicious prosecution and false arrest.
Mr. Ray counterclaimed, charging intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Following a mistrial in the court of Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Mary M. Werner, the action landed in Justice Austin’s court. Twenty-six Suffolk County Supreme Court judges recused themselves or were deemed unavailable before the case was transferred to Nassau County, according to Mr. Ray.
By a vote of 5 to 1, the jury dismissed both charges against Mr. Ray.
And by a unanimous vote, the jury found that Mr. Eves intentionally caused Mr. Ray extreme emotional distress, awarding him $300,000.
Upon a motion by Mr. Eves, Justice Austin declined to set aside the verdict, though he did reduce it from $300,000 to $50,000.
“While testimony of pain is sufficient to establish an entitlement to some compensation, in order to sustain a substantial award, plaintiff must demonstrate that the injury was more than minimal,” Justice Austin wrote.
Mr. Ray testified that, among other things, the stress aggravated his psoriasis and caused him to use inhalers, though he did not seek medical treatment or psychological counseling.
“In view of the lack of medical evidence,” Justice Austin concluded, “this Court finds the damage award materially deviates from what would be fair and just compensation.”
He therefore ordered the award set aside and a trial for damages, unless Mr. Ray consented to the reduction.
Mr. Ray was represented by his partner Robert R. Meguin.
Edward S. Raskin of Deer Park represented Mr. Eves. Mr. Raskin could not be reached for comment.
? Mark Fass can be reached at email@example.com.