Trials & Litigation

Judge nixes lawyer’s suit in law firm flooring dispute, tells him to pay contractor legal fees


A prominent New York attorney has seen the swift dismissal of a multi-count lawsuit he filed against a contractor hired to perform a build-out and install new flooring at his Staten Island law firm. The attorney wound up with a court order to pay his opponent $10,500 instead of receiving the $100,000 in damages he had sought.

However, Jonathan B. Behrins intends to continue his legal battle for redress and appeal the ruling rejecting his claims of civil assault, defamation, breach of contract and fraud and deceit against Keith Campanella of Campa Construction Corp., reports the Staten Island Advance.

An earlier Staten Island Advance story provides additional details about the colorful case, which allegedly involved a verbal altercation in a men’s room of the Bloomfield law firm.

Behrins, who is a former president of the Richmond County Bar Association, said in his St. George Supreme Court suit that Campanella temporarily blocked him from exiting and shouted after him, as he left, “All I need is three minutes in the ring with you to settle this,” the newspaper recounts.

That scenario was not sufficient to establish a cause of action for civil assault, however, ruled Acting Justice Kim Dollard, because the two men were separated by a flight of stairs at the time of the claimed statement by Campanella. The judge nixed a defamation count, saying Behrins couldn’t show he was harmed by an angry email from the contractor.

The judge also held that Behrins was precluded from suing over the flooring Campanella installed at the law firm because the attorney had signed off on the work, the articles say. The lawyer had claimed in his suit that the contractor used flooring that was half an inch thick rather than five-eighths of an inch, as agreed.

In addition to the $10,500 award to Campanella, which apparently represents the unpaid balance the contractor said he was owed for his work at the firm, Dollard also ordered Behrins to pay an undetermined amount of attorney’s fees and costs to Campanella.

“Several portions of the decision were plainly wrong,” said Behrins, telling the Advance he plans to move to reargue the case before Dollard and appeal further, if need be.

Campanella and his lawyer, Milo Silberstein of Manhattan, said he is pleased with the ruling in the case.

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