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Public Entity and Civil Rights Litigation

Our firm has over 20 years of experience in handling public entity liability matters in civil courts. A significant strength of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin is the regional representation we provide insurers and self-insureds. The practice group defends public entities in the state and federal courts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, Delaware, Ohio and New York, and in the various administrative agencies.
 
Public entity liability encompasses a broad range of claims against local governments and townships, including claims against police departments, zoning boards and school districts. Our attorneys have defended local governments against claims of:

  • Excessive force by police
  • Improper police pursuit
  • Failure to maintain real estate or highways
  • Negligent design of roads
  • Inadequate traffic control devices

 
Members of our firm have also defended zoning boards in:

  • Land use claims
  • Claims arising from political or racial discrimination

 
Our representation of school districts has included:

  • Claims alleging improper student discipline
  • Inappropriate student contact
  • School bus accidents
  • Claims arising under the Rehabilitation Act
  • Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act

 
The Public Entity Liability Practice Group has also handled various employment liability matters on behalf of governmental agencies, such as:

  • Claims of violation of the Police Tenure Act
  • Claims of discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act
  • Family Medical Leave Act
  • Title VII
  • Other federal and state statutes

 
Our civil rights practice involves defending claims that allege deprivation of an individual's civil rights by a public entity. Such claims are brought under 42 U.S.C. 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, and 1986 and may be "stand alone" claims brought by third parties or employees and may be combined with claims of employment discrimination.
 
We handle every case with a practical, results-oriented approach that balances strong representation with realistic cost containment. We would welcome the opportunity to work with you in handling your public entity and civil rights litigation. We are also available to give presentations and conduct training seminars at your location or ours.
 
Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin serves clients in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Ft. Lauderdale and communities throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Ohio, Florida and New York.

Case Study December 1, 2012

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Aug 30, 2017
Obtained summary judgment on behalf of one of the nation’s largest grocery chains in a federal civil rights action that received considerable media attention and was venued in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. ​An...
May 11, 2017
The plaintiff was detained by police following reports of an individual with a gun riding an ATV near an old amusement park. The plaintiff appeared to be fleeing police on his ATV when he turned into a parking lot. After dismounting the ATV, the...
May 11, 2017
The plaintiff had complained to the police about her ex-husband violating a protection from abuse order. After investigating, the police determined that no PFA was in effect, and they arrested the plaintiff instead of her former husband and charged...
May 11, 2017
Obtained summary judgment on behalf of a township and its sewage enforcement officer resulting from an alleged negligent inspection and approval of a septic system. ​A current owner of a residential property in the township filed suit against the...
May 11, 2017
Obtained summary judgment and the dismissal of all claims against a municipality. ​The case involved a motor vehicle and pedestrian collision on a state road that was within the municipality and was undergoing extensive reconstruction. The plaintiff...
Dec 6, 2016
Obtained a defense verdict in a Section 1983 Excessive Force case in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. ​The plaintiff alleged that a Sergeant from the York City Police Department physically attacked him after he had...
Aug 25, 2016
Marshall Dennehey attorneys successfully defended a claim of housing discrimination filed with the New York State Human Rights Commission. The complainant, who was receiving disability payments under the Social Security Program and Supplemental...
Aug 25, 2016
Obtained summary judgment on behalf of a chief of campus security, a private university and two security guards. The campus security guards responded to a Resident Assistant's complaint of a strong smell of marijuana coming from the plaintiff...
Apr 21, 2016
Obtained summary judgment in a civil rights lawsuit filed under Section 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiff sued several police officers for wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution, claiming...
Jan 22, 2016
A municipal police officer received a complaint that an unknown male attempted to lure a 15-year-old female into his car. A day later, the victim and her mother went to the police department and advised the same officer that the victim saw...

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Law Alerts October 1, 2017
In the early morning hours of a Sunday, the plaintiff was the passenger in a vehicle being driven by her son, who committed a traffic violation and refused to pull over, thus initiating a slow-speed pursuit, which led police directly into the heart..., Case Law Alerts, 4th Quarter, October 2017 Case Law Alerts is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal...
Law Alerts October 1, 2017
The plaintiff, an electrical service provider, brought an action in negligence against the City of Reading to recover damages and costs it incurred in making repairs to its equipment, which it claimed were caused by the city’s negligence. The..., Case Law Alerts, 4th Quarter, October 2017 Case Law Alerts is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal...
Defense Digest Article September 1, 2017
Defense Digest, Vol. 23, No. 3, September 2017 By Mark J. Kozlowski, Esq.* Key Points: When a property owner seeks just compensation via the Fifth Amendment, courts will look to determine whether the alleged taking is facial or as-..., Defense Digest, Vol. 23, No. 3, September 2017. Defense Digest is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent legal developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not...
Defense Digest Article September 1, 2017
Defense Digest, Vol. 23, No. 3, September 2017 By April L. Cressler, Esq.* Key Points: You do have the right to record police officers engaged in official activity regardless of whether your actions constitute expressive conduct. The..., Defense Digest, Vol. 23, No. 3, September 2017. Defense Digest is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent legal developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not...
Law Alerts July 1, 2017
During the decedent’s health assessment at SCI Camp Hill (he had recently been convicted of burglary and sentenced to 16-48 months imprisonment), he admitted to prior suicide attempts, recent acts of self-harm, continuing thoughts of both self..., Case Law Alerts, 3rd Quarter, July 2017 Case Law Alerts is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice...
Law Alerts July 1, 2017
The plaintiff-appellant appealed his two death sentences for murdering an elderly woman and kidnapping and murdering her ten-month-old grandchild. He filed a pro se appeal, challenging on several grounds, including the denial of his motion to..., Case Law Alerts, 3rd Quarter, July 2017 Case Law Alerts is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice...
Law Alerts July 1, 2017
The plaintiff alleged that the defendants, including Grodeck, violated his civil rights under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act. Mr. Grodeck is an attorney and represented himself pro se. After the plaintiff’s complaint was dismissed,..., Case Law Alerts, 3rd Quarter, July 2017 Case Law Alerts is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice...
Defense Digest Article June 1, 2017
Defense Digest, Vol. 23, No. 2, June 2017 By Diana P. Cortes, Esq.* Key Points: Uncertain accrual date increases the expansion of pretrial detention claims. Increase in exposure and claims against municipalities. Best line of defense...,   Defense Digest, Vol. 23, No. 2, June 2017. Defense Digest is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent legal developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not...
Law Alerts April 1, 2017
A police officer, Officer White, arrived late to a scene and witnessed shots being fired by one of several armed individuals in a residence, later identified as the Pauly brothers, and ultimately shot and killed one of the brothers, Samuel, prior to..., Case Law Alerts, 2nd Quarter, April 2017 Case Law Alerts is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice...
Law Alerts April 1, 2017
This case arose out of a trip and fall accident at the Delaware County Recorder of Deeds’ office. The plaintiff visited the County Recorder of Deeds office to conduct title searches. As the plaintiff sat to conduct searches at a County..., Case Law Alerts, 2nd Quarter, April 2017 Case Law Alerts is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice...

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January 19, 2017
Candace D. Embry, associate in the Philadelphia office of  Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, has been elected to the Board of Directors of Philadelphia VIP, where she will serve as Board Secretary. Philadelphia VIP is a nonprofit organization that recruits, trains and supports...
November 18, 2013
Obtained summary judgment, affirmed on appeal in the Commonwealth Court, for a police officer, his supervisor and the police department in a case involving police pursuit that ended in a fatal crash. The case changed the law in Pennsylvania, as the court held for the first time, "There is no duty...
July 30, 2013
Scott G. Dunlop, shareholder and managing attorney of the Pittsburgh office of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, has been elected to membership of the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County. The organization is devoted to promoting the highest standards of integrity, civility and...
Conference May 5, 2013
More lives, property, and working hours are lost to police pursuits and accidents than almost any other cause. Speaking from the perspective of a retired police officer, who now defends such officers in federal and state lawsuits, this presentation...
Conference Jul 13, 2014
Christopher P. Boyle and John P. Gonzales will be featured speakers at the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Centennial Conference. On July 14, Chris will present "Civil Litigation Boot Camp for New Police Chiefs," and John will present,...

Chair

Joseph J. Santarone Jr.
Chair, Public Entity & Civil Rights Practice Group
(215) 575-2626
jjsantarone@mdwcg.com

Additional Contacts

Scott G. Dunlop
Managing Attorney, Pittsburgh, PA Office
(412) 803-1144
sgdunlop@mdwcg.com

Related Practice Areas

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