Petty v Law Off. of Robert P. Santoriella, P.C.
2021 NY Slip Op 07527
Decided on December 28, 2021
Appellate Division, First Department
Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.
This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.
DEC 28, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LINY : JAN 2, 2021
Decided and Entered: December 28, 2021
Before: Webber, J.P., Mazzarelli, Gesmer, González, Rodriguez, JJ.
Index No. 155468/15 Appeal No. 14924 Case No. 2021-01688
[*1]Sara Petty, Plaintiff-Appellant,
The Law Office of Robert P. Santoriella, P.C., et al., Defendants-Respondents.
ArcÉ Law Group, PC, New York (MaKenna Rogers of counsel), for appellant.
Order, Supreme Court, New York County (Mary V. Rosado, J.), entered on or about November 27, 2020, which, after an inquest on damages upon defendants’ default, dismissed the complaint, unanimously reversed, on the law, without costs, the complaint reinstated, and the matter remanded for a new inquest on damages before a different Justice in accordance with this decision.
“[B]y defaulting, a defendant admits all traversable allegations contained in the complaint, and thus concedes liability, although not damages”
(HF Mgt. Servs. v Dependable Care, LLC, 198 AD3d 457, 458, [1st Dept 2021] [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Rokina Opt. Co. v Camera King, 63 NY2d 728, 730-731 ).
“Some proof of liability is also required to satisfy the court as to the prima facie validity of the uncontested cause of action,” but the standard of proof is “minimal,” “not stringent”
(Joosten v Gale, 129 AD2d 531, 535 [1st Dept 1987]).
In this case, plaintiff made a prima facie showing in support of all of her causes of action against the defaulting defendants, and therefore the court should not have dismissed the complaint
(see Taylor v Brooke Towers LLC, 73 AD3d 535 [1st Dept 2010]).
In her uncontroverted complaint and testimony, plaintiff averred that defendant Santoriella used his position of authority and confidence as an attorney to gain her trust, and then discriminated against her by withholding the legal services she sought in connection with litigation related to a sexual assault of plaintiff and using the pretext of offering such services to harass and subject her to unwelcome sexual conduct and advances.
She alleged that he accomplished this by asking her unnecessarily intrusive and humiliating questions which were irrelevant to his representation of her; by continuing to do so even after she told him that his questions were exacerbating her post-traumatic stress disorder and causing her extreme distress; by requesting that she send him photographs and videos which he then used for his own sexual gratification; and by sending her unsolicited sexually explicit photographs of his girlfriend.
Plaintiff properly established claims under New York State Executive Law § 269(2)(a) (State HRL) that defendant Santoriella discriminated against plaintiff based on her gender by “directly or indirectly . . . withhold[ing] from” plaintiff at least some of “the accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges” of defendant law firm.
Given that the similarly worded Administration Code of the City of New York§ 8-107(4)(a) (City HRL) has an even broader application and more liberal construction than the State HRL
(see Morse v Fidessa Corp., 165 AD3d 61 [1st Dept 2018];
Williams v New York City Hous. Auth., 61 AD3d 62, 66 [1st Dept 2009], lv denied 13 NY3d 702 ),
plaintiff also made a prima facie showing that defendant Santoriella’s discriminatory behavior violated the City HRL, by “directly or indirectly . . . withhold[ing] from” plaintiff “the full [*2]and equal enjoyment, on equal terms and conditions, of” at least some “of the accommodations, advantages, services, facilities or privileges of” defendant law firm
(Administrative Code § 8-107[a]).
Finally, plaintiff established her claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress by demonstrating that defendant Santoriella engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct through his deliberate and malicious campaign of harassment, while disregarding a substantial probability that doing so would cause severe emotional distress to her, and that his conduct did in fact did cause her severe emotional distress
(Howell v New York Post Co., 81 NY2d 115, 121 ;
Owen v Leventritt, 174 AD2d 471, 472 [1st Dept 1991], lv denied 79 NY2d 751 ).
In particular, defendant Santoriella’s abuse of his position of power and the attorney-client relationship in responding to plaintiff’s attempt to obtain legal representation relating to a prior sexual assault by sexually harassing her was “so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community”
(Howell, 81 NY2d at 122 [internal quotation marks omitted]).
Since the existing record does not provide an adequate basis to assess damages, we remand solely for a new inquest, on notice, to determine plaintiff’s damages
(see Tanous v Ran Corp., 272 AD2d 105 [1st Dept 2000]).
The new inquest should address, among other things, plaintiff’s requests for punitive damages and attorney’s fees pursuant to Administrative Code § 8-502(a) and (g).
THIS CONSTITUTES THE DECISION AND ORDER OF THE SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISION, FIRST DEPARTMENT.
ENTERED: December 28, 2021
Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division: Second Judicial Department
WILLIAM F. MASTRO, A.P.J. REINALDO E. RIVERA MARK C. DILLON
CHERYL E. CHAMBERS LINDA CHRISTOPHER, JJ.
MAR 3, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LINY : JAN 2, 2021
OPINION & ORDER
In the Matter of Robert P. Santoriella, admitted as
Robert Philip Santoriella, an attorney and counselor-at-law.
Grievance Committee for the Second, Eleventh, and Thirteenth Judicial Districts, petitioner; Robert P. Santoriella, respondent.
(Attorney Registration No. 2588655)
DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING instituted by the Grievance Committee for the Second, Eleventh, and Thirteenth Judicial Districts. The respondent was admitted to the Bar at a term of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the Second Judicial Department on April 27, 1994, under the name Robert Philip Santoriella.
Diana Maxfield Kearse, Brooklyn, NY (Thomas J. Murphy of counsel), for petitioner.
The Grievance Committee for the Second, Eleventh, and Thirteenth Judicial Districts served the respondent on July 27, 2020, and July 30, 2020, as authorized pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90(6) by means of substituted service, with a notice of petition and a verified petition, both dated June 22, 2020, and duly filed those papers with this Court together with an affidavit of service.
The petition contains one charge of professional misconduct, alleging that the respondent failed to cooperate with the Grievance Committee in its investigations of 15 complaints of professional misconduct, in violation of rule 8.4(d) and (h) of the Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR 1200.0).
The notice of petition directed the respondent to serve and file his answer to the petition within 20 days after service upon him of the notice of petition and the petition. To date, the respondent has neither served nor filed an answer to the petition, as directed.
The Grievance Committee now moves to deem the charge against the respondent established based upon his default and to impose such discipline upon him as this Court deems appropriate. Although the motion papers were served, by mail, upon the respondent on September 10, 2020, he has neither opposed this motion nor interposed any response thereto.
By separate motion, the Grievance Committee moves, inter alia, to immediately suspend the respondent from the practice of law pursuant to 22 NYCRR 1240.9(a)(1) and (3), upon a finding that he is guilty of professional misconduct immediately threatening the public interest. Service upon the respondent of the motion papers, as authorized pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90(6) by means of substituted service, was effectuated on July 27, 2020, and July 30, 2020. To date, the respondent has neither opposed this motion nor interposed any response thereto.
Accordingly, the Grievance Committee’s motion to deem the charge against the respondent established based upon his default is granted, the charge in the verified petition is deemed established, and, effective immediately, the respondent is disbarred and his name is stricken from the roll of attorneys and counselors-at-law. The Grievance Committee’s separate motion, inter alia, to immediately suspend the respondent from the practice of law is denied as academic.
MASTRO, A.P.J., RIVERA, DILLON, CHAMBERS and CHRISTOPHER, JJ., concur.
ORDERED that the Grievance Committee’s motion to deem the charge in the petition dated June 22, 2020, established is granted, and the Grievance Committee’s separate motion, inter alia, to immediately suspend the respondent, Robert P. Santoriella, admitted as Robert Philip Santoriella, from the practice of law is denied as academic; and it is further,
ORDERED that pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90, effective immediately, the respondent, Robert P. Santoriella, admitted as Robert Philip Santoriella, is disbarred, and his name is stricken from the roll of attorneys and counselors-at-law; and it is further,
ORDERED that the respondent, Robert P. Santoriella, admitted as Robert Philip
Santoriella, shall comply with the rules governing the conduct of disbarred or suspended attorneys (see 22 NYCRR 1240.15); and it is further,
ORDERED that pursuant to Judiciary Law § 90, the respondent, Robert P. Santoriella, admitted as Robert Philip Santoriella, is commanded to desist and refrain from (1) practicing law in any form, either as principal or as agent, clerk, or employee of another, (2) appearing as an attorney or counselor-at-law before any court, Judge, Justice, board, commission, or other public authority, (3) giving to another an opinion as to the law or its application or any advice in relation thereto, and (4) holding himself out in any way as an attorney and counselor-at- law; and it is further,
ORDERED that if the respondent, Robert P. Santoriella, admitted as Robert Philip Santoriella, has been issued a secure pass by the Office of Court Administration, it shall be returned forthwith to the issuing agency, and the respondent shall certify to the same in his affidavit of compliance pursuant to 22 NYCRR 1240.15(f).
Clerk of the Court