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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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Oct 8, 2015
Obtained summary judgment for a police officer accused of malicious prosecution. 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...
Feb 16, 2015
The defense prevailed in an inverse condemnation proceeding in the Luzerne County, PA, Court of Common Pleas. The plaintiffs owned a large tract of land in a borough in the county and, several years ago, the borough placed an asphalt over a dirt...
Feb 16, 2015
Obtained a defense verdict after a four-day jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiff alleged that law enforcement officers used excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, when removing...
Jun 17, 2014
Obtained summary judgment in a public entity and civil rights case filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Represented an attorney (who served as plaintiff’s counsel in the underlying bitterly contested...
Jun 10, 2014
Obtained dismissal of two lawsuits involving claims of defamation, breach of contract and interference with contractual relations on behalf of a township supervisor in a Pennsylvania county.  The plaintiffs, former employees of the township,...
Jun 10, 2014
Obtained a defense verdict in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in a seven day jury trial.  The case was brought by a Major in the Air Force Reserves who alleged that he was denied a position as a township manager because of his ongoing...
Nov 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...
Sep 12, 2013
Plaintiff alleged that the client, a private special education school, did not adequately protect a 9-year-old autistic student who was abused by a 15-year-old classmate and brought a 14th Amendment claim of a "state of created danger"...
Sep 12, 2013
 The plaintiffs are the remaining residents of the Borough of Centralia in Columbia County, PA, where an underground mine fire was discovered in 1962 and still burns today. In 1993 the client, in providing legal representation to the Columbia...
May 16, 2013
A directed verdict obtained in a wrongful discharge suit. The plaintiff claimed that the employer/hospital violated the public policy exception to at-will employment by relatliating against her for associating with a patient who sued the employer;...

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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
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...
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...
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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