The Times Herald recently featured an article about two cases filed by a domestic violence advocate who is suing local and state domestic violence organizations, and their leaders, claiming they defamed her. Grace Perez of Newburgh contends she was defamed and that negative comments were made related to her ouster from the Violence Intervention Program. Her case is against Safe Homes of Orange County and its executive director, Kellyann Kostyal,and the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence and its CEO, Michelle McKeon, and board President Catherine Mazzotta. The lawyer for the state coalition responded, ”We find that the complaint has no merit whatsoever.
Perez is seeking a total of $4 million in this case, $2 million in economic damages and $2 million for emotional distress.
This is not the first time this year that an Orange County service organization has been faced with a high dollar lawsuit. In August of this year, Jean Pierre, the estranged boyfriend and father of one of the four children LaShanda Armstrong tragically drove into the Hudson River brought suit against both the City of Newburgh and Orange County Child Protective Services for $40 million each.
These large ticket lawsuits take money from the taxpayers of New York and strain the budgets of our municipalities. A recent study by SUNY Albany revealed that some residents of New York counties pay over $600 per capita for claims and judgments. Even if these cases are not won or the full judgment is not paid, defending the suits costs taxpayer dollars and strains the limited resources of our court system. New York needs lawsuit reform to eliminate meritless lawsuits that clog our courts and delay justice for those with legitimate claims. It’s time to return balance and common sense to our civil justice system!