Charles A. Deluca Secures Defense Verdict for Law Firm in $36.5M Lawsuit Brought by Developer

April 4, 2017

This case involved the defendant law firm and their clients’ participation in legal proceedings relating to 14+ acres of prime real property owned by the developer, located in what the firm and their clients believed to be an environmentally sensitive area in upstate Connecticut. The firm’s clients intervened in various pending actions and filed appeals of various decisions relating to the land use proceedings on the advice of their attorney. The plaintiff real estate developer claimed the litigation was brought maliciously and without probable cause causing it to lose a multi-million-dollar deal with a major big box retailer that had contracted to lease the real estate for 30 years.

After over 4 weeks of a hybrid jury/bench trial, the jury ruled in the defendants’ favor finding that the underlying proceedings by the defendants did not cause the real estate deal to fall through, and that the firm and their clients did not act with malice. Additionally, the jury rejected the developer’s claim that it was also entitled to recover a recoupment of the developer’s attorney’s fees and disbursements which exceeded $500,000.

The court thereafter issued a 50-page ruling addressing the probable cause issue holding that although the developer had proved its statutory vexatious claim (which permitted recovery of double damages), the defendants were not liable for any damages since they proved their special defense asserting the Noerr-Pennington doctrine. The Noerr-Pennington doctrine provided immunity and shielded the defendants from any liability for engaging in litigation aimed at influencing decision-making by the government which were protected by the First Amendment.