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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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Dec 1, 2017
The defense obtained a unanimous, precedential decision in the Third Circuit reversing a federal district court’s denial of qualified immunity for our police officer clients. The plaintiff was a passenger in a car struck by a bullet fired by...
Dec 1, 2017
The plaintiff was engaged in a drug transaction on the street when uniformed officers who were watching approached him from a block away. When the plaintiff jumped into his car and sped away through residential streets in the middle of the day, the...
Dec 1, 2017
Our client, a local planning commission, was sued for allegedly taking too long to approve a zoning permit for the establishment of a restaurant. The plaintiffs filed a single-count complaint, seeking damages for willful and intentional conduct on...
Dec 1, 2017
Obtained a dismissal on behalf of our clients, a Fire Department and two of its firefighters, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. At the direction of the Borough Code Enforcement, the Fire Department inspected the...
Dec 1, 2017
The plaintiff brought claims of excessive force against one of two police officers and claims of assault and battery against the other officer. The incident in question occurred during a traffic stop. The plaintiff bore a strong resemblance to, and...
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...

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Law Alerts August 1, 2018
Today’s Topic – The New Jersey Tort Claims Act By Matthew J. Behr, Esq.* In this first case of Banks v. Gunderson, 2018 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1253 (May 30, 2018), the plaintiff was injured by a car while walking on a Camden County..., 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 May 1, 2018
The Open Public Records Act By Matthew J. Behr, Esquire New Jersey courts have long recognized the interest of the public in gaining information. In enacting the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1, et seq., the legislature codified..., 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, 2018
A local police officer was driving his patrol car at a high rate of speed when responding to a call. According to the officer who was driving the patrol car, the overhead lights and sirens were activated. This information was controverted. While in..., Case Law Alerts, 2nd Quarter, April 2018 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, 2018
This case involves a civil suit against the District of Columbia and five of its police officers brought by 16 individuals who were arrested for holding a raucous, late-night party in a house they did not have permission to enter. The United States..., Case Law Alerts, 2nd Quarter, April 2018 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, 2018
The defendant moved to suppress evidence obtained during the execution of a search warrant by an officer who did not have any firsthand knowledge of the facts creating probable cause for the warrant. The trial court denied the defendant’s..., Case Law Alerts, 2nd Quarter, April 2018 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 19, 2018
The plaintiff filed an Open Public Records Act request for copies of all attorney invoices and settlement agreements from 2010 to 2015. The defendant township denied the request, and the Law Division agreed that the request was invalid. The..., Case Law Alerts, 1st Quarter, January 2018 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
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...

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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,...
Seminar Jul 23, 2018
Police canine handlers and supervisors must clearly understand their roles and responsibilities as they, along with their municipal employer, may face a potentially high liability exposure particularly when there is a lack of clear canine...

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

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