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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
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...
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...
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, 2019
Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Schmehl found that an involuntary commitment for observation pursuant to Section 302 of the Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act (50 P.S. § 7302) is not an adjudication or commitment under 18 U.S.C...., Case Law Alerts, 4th Quarter, October 2019 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 September 1, 2019
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Overturns City’s Attempt to Collect “Maintenance Fee” from Public Utility by Mark J. Kozlowski, Esq. Local municipalities are faced daily with unique challenges that require them to test the limits..., The material in this law alert has been prepared for our readers by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin. It is solely intended to provide information on recent legal developments and is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific...
Defense Digest Article September 1, 2019
Defense Digest, Vol. 25, No. 3, September 2019 By Douglas C. LaSota, Esq. & Benjamin R. Wright, Esq.* Key Points: Under 35 P.S. § 7210.501, municipalities were required to adopt and enforce the UCC as their municipal building..., Defense Digest, Vol. 25, No. 3, September 2019. 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 intended to provide...
Law Alerts August 1, 2019
Appellate Division Discusses Inter-Relationship Between Tort Claims Act and Malicious Prosecution By Matthew J. Behr, Esq. In Murphy v. Shaw, Docket No. A-3715-16T3, the Appellate Division provided guidance as to the accrual date for a malicious..., The material in this law alert has been prepared for our readers by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin. It is solely intended to provide information on recent legal developments, and is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific...
Law Alerts July 1, 2019
The plaintiff left work when a snow storm caused an emergency early closing. She slipped on accumulated ice and snow that was un-shoveled and unsalted. The defendant was granted summary judgment because determining where to begin shoveling snow and..., Case Law Alerts, 3rd Quarter, July 2019 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, 2019
In May, a federal judge sitting in the Middle District of Pennsylvania dismissed a lawsuit filed by a gay aluminum manufacturing worker who had claimed he was subjected to harassment and a hostile work environment on the basis of his sexual..., Case Law Alerts, 3rd Quarter, July 2019 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, 2019
Defense Digest, Vol. 25, No. 2, June 2019 By Michael L. Detweiler, Esq.* Key Points: Claims against local governmental agencies pursuant to vehicle liability exception were actionable only if harm was caused by the voluntary movement of...,   Defense Digest, Vol. 25, No. 2, June 2019. 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 intended to...
Law Alerts April 25, 2019
Update to Filing of Late Notice of Tort Claim  by Matthew J. Behr, Esq. Recently, the Appellate Division affirmed the granting of a motion to file a late notice of tort claim in the case of Kuczinski v. State of New Jersey, A-3694-17T2 (April..., The material in this law alert has been prepared for our readers by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin. It is solely intended to provide information on recent legal developments, and is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific...
Law Alerts April 1, 2019
The District Court dismissed all of the plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. §1983 claims against the individual defendants and the City of Newark, finding that he had not adequately pled Fourth Amendment violations or a custom of warrantless searches..., Case Law Alerts, 2nd Quarter, April 2019 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 January 1, 2019
The plaintiff was sexually assaulted while incarcerated. She did not file a notice of tort claim within the requisite 90 days because she was not aware of this requirement. Upon her release, she retained an attorney. Five months later, she sought..., Case Law Alerts, 1st Quarter, January 2019 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...

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Chair

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

Additional Contacts

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

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