Posted by: Patricia Salkin | December 16, 2014

Fed. Dist. Court in NY Dismisses Equal Protection Class of One Claim for Concert Hosting Business

Plaintiffs Jeryl Abramson and Yasgur Road Productions, LLC commenced this action against defendants Bette Jean Gettel, Gregg Semenetz, Daniel Sturm, and the Town of Bethel, alleging that Defendants deprived Plaintiffs of their right to equal protection of law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiffs (a purported “class of one”) contended that Defendants enforced Town land use laws in a manner that penalized Plaintiffs and harmed their financial interests, while according more lenient treatment to a competing entertainment and concert-hosting business, G & B Real Property LLC (“G & B”). Yasgur Road and G & B have hosted a series of reunion concerts over the years commemorating the legendary Woodstock festival of 1969.

To succeed on a class-of-one claim, a plaintiff must establish that: 1) no rational person could regard the circumstances of the plaintiff to differ from those of a comparator to a degree that would justify the differential treatment on the basis of a legitimate government policy; and 2) the similarity in circumstances and difference in treatment are sufficient to exclude the possibility that the defendants acted on the basis of mistake. Comparing the two companies the consent order leaves the two companies very differently aligned: one company must obtain a special use permit before hosting a concert, while the other company need not do so. Furthermore, years of non-compliance with Town land use requirements placed Plaintiffs and their property in a unique circumstance vis a vis the Town. Thus the dramatic historical differences, different zoning classifications, and different land use rights made these two properties dissimilar as a matter of law. Accordingly, the defendant’s motion to dismiss was granted.

Abramson v Gettel, 2014 WL 6694505 (SDNY 11/25/2014)

The opinion can be accessed at: http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/new-york/nysdce/7:2014cv02371/425445/27/


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