Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Will court ruling pry open details of claims of sexual misconduct against Stuckey while at Forest City?

Capital New York (paywall only) points to a brief but potentially important decision yesterday by an appellate court in the lawsuit by Stephanie Bonadio against New York University and its former Dean Jim Stuckey regarding the potential sharing of information regarding Stuckey's conduct while at developer Forest City Ratner.

Bonadio sued NYU and Stuckey in 2012 for sexual harassment, with other counts against NYU for retaliation (she claims her job was eliminated after accusations against Stuckey) and against Stuckey for assault and battery.

As stated in the decision issued yesterday, the Appellate Division, First Department, reversed a lower court order that denied Bonadio's "motion to compel discovery of information related to claims of sexual misconduct made against defendant Stuckey when he was employed by Forest City Ratner (FCR), except insofar as such information was provided to or otherwise known by defendant New York University."

In other words, information about such claims--the New York Post reported that Stuckey, the former Atlantic Yards point man, was pushed out in 2007 "after a series of complaints had been made against him by female employees"--can be shared with Bonadio.

Whether they will become public is another question. Certain documents in this case are already under seal. From the decision:
Plaintiff claims that she was subjected to unlawful conduct in the form of unwanted touching by defendant Stuckey; Stuckey denies that his intent was to harass plaintiff or that his conduct was unwanted. He claims that he took plaintiff's hand and placed it on his upper leg, innocently and with her consent, in an effort to console her. As Stuckey's intent is at issue and "no particular intent can be inferred from the nature of the act [he] committed," plaintiff is entitled to disclosure of evidence that bears on his intent, e.g. "other similar acts" (see Matter of Brandon, 55 NY2d 206, 211-212 [1982]). Thus, she is entitled to information related to claims of sexual misconduct made against Stuckey while he was employed at FCR (see e.g. Pecile v Titan Capital Group, LLC, 119 AD3d 446 [1st Dept 2014]).
Settlement agreements while at Forest City

As I reported in January, a lawyer for Stuckey, in a letter to the court, indicated there were two settlement agreements involving Forest City Ratner:
That is because the prior motion related to a settlement agreement that the Court ordered non-party Forest City Ratner to produce under seal. The Court ultimately determined that the agreement should remain confidential and free from discovery pursuant to the express language of the confidentiality clause in that agreement. Motions No. 5 and 6 relate to the same settlement agreement, as well as another related settlement agreement with an identical confidentiality clause, and therefore deserve the same sealing treatment.
In other words, Forest City Ratner signed a settlement agreement, presumably with Stuckey and/or his former colleagues/subordinates. And then it signed a "related settlement agreement," again presumably with Stuckey and/or his former colleagues/subordinates.

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