Trials & Litigation

Suit Claims Lawyer Slapped Paul Hastings Partner Because of Violent Finger Shaking, Spittle-Spewing

A Manhattan lawyer admits in a lawsuit that he slapped a Paul Hastings partner in a deposition last August, but says it was justified.

Lawyer Kenechukwu Okoli claims he deserves more than $1 million in damages for the incident in which Okoli slapped Allan Bloom, the co-chairman of Paul Hastings’ employment practice, the Am Law Daily reports. According to Okoli’s complaint, Okoli responded with a slap after Bloom rushed him “and began yelling at the top of his lungs and shaking his pointed index finger violently less than one foot from Okoli’s face.”

Okoli alleges “spittle from Bloom’s wide open mouth hit Okoli’s face,” the Am Law Daily reports. Okoli’s suit claims Bloom’s conduct amounted to assault, and he also committed slander by calling Okoli “uncivilized, ignorant and incompetent.”

Paul Hastings says in a motion to dismiss that Okoli made hostile and disparaging comments to Bloom during the deposition, telling him to “keep your mouth shut.”

The motion argues that “accidental spittle,” finger wagging, close proximity and a raised voice are not enough to support an assault allegation, according to the story. “One must have a well grounded fear of imminent physical harm, not a well grounded fear of spittle,” the motion says.

Paul Hastings also says the deposition transcript does not record Bloom calling Okoli uncivilized, ignorant or incompetent. But if Bloom did say those words, the law firm argues, it was done in the heat of passion, making it harder to define as slander under New York law.

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