Posted by: Patricia Salkin | May 25, 2019

Second Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Dismissal of Subdivision Claims Where Plaintiffs Failed to Adequately Allege Ripeness and Standing

This post was authored by Amy Lavine, Esq.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held in May that a lawsuit challenging the denial of a subdivision application was properly dismissed.

Under the ripeness rules applicable in land use cases, the plaintiffs were required to show that there was a final decision on their subdivision application before seeking federal court review of their claims. In this case, however, the plaintiffs conceded that they hadn’t received a final decision and instead argued that an exception to the ripeness rule applied because it would be futile for them to continue seeking review of their proposed subdivision. The court was unpersuaded though, noting that there was no evidence that the village defendants had “dug in their heels” or otherwise suggested that the plaintiffs’ subdivision would never be approved. Additionally, the plaintiffs failed to allege whether they’d sought a variance, and the complaint indicated that the dispute was settled in January 2015 when the plaintiffs agreed to reduce the number of lots proposed in their application.

The court next dismissed the First Amendment retaliation claim made by plaintiff Philip J. Simao in his individual capacity, because as a member of the corporate plaintiff, Liberty Sackets Harbor LLC, he lacked standing to sue for an injury to the company and he failed to allege any direct individual injury otherwise sufficient to confer standing. As the court emphasized, Simao’s alleged emotional distress and legal expenses weren’t enough because these injuries arose from the alleged injuries to Liberty Sackets Harbor LLC and were not independent damages that could support a separate cause of action.

The claims asserted against Conboy, McKay, Bachman & Kendall, LLP were also properly dismissed, the court held, because the plaintiffs provided no evidence that the law firm was somehow a “state actor” under Section 1983. While the plaintiffs argued that discovery was needed to determine the full extent of the law firm’s involvement with the village and the denial of its application, the court did not agree and declined to “unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.”

Having affirmed the dismissal of all of the plaintiffs’ federal claims, the court found as a final matter that the district court properly declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ state law claims.

Liberty Sackets Harbor Llc v. Sackets Harbor, 2019 WL 2245923 (2d Cir. 5/24/19).

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