Offit Kurman Secures Win for Don Imus Against Wrongful Termination Claim
The Supreme Court of New York today dismissed a wrongful termination lawsuit brought by sportscaster Warner Wolf against radio personality Don Imus. Offit Kurman attorney Brendan Marx and special counsel Martin Garbus represented Mr. Imus throughout the proceedings.
Mr. Imus is the former host of “Imus in the Morning.” The nationally acclaimed talk show, which aired on WABC and was syndicated by Cumulus Media Networks, concluded in March of this year. Mr. Wolf is a sports news broadcaster and anchor (perhaps best known for his catchphrase “Let’s go to the videotape”). The two men worked together for nearly 20 years.
In 2015, Mr. Wolf relocated to Naples, Florida, and started broadcasting from home, rather than WABC’s studios in New York City. To facilitate this working arrangement, he subsequently agreed to a reduction in salary from $197,500 to $80,000. In November 2016, before the agreement was finalized, Mr. Imus terminated Mr. Wolf. Sidney Rosenberg took Mr. Wolf’s place on the program.
The dispute began following Mr. Wolf’s termination. In a lawsuit filed on February 15, 2018, Mr. Wolf, 80, accused Mr. Imus, 78, of age discrimination under New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). The complaint alleged that Mr. Imus’ basis for firing Mr. Wolf was “blatantly pretextual” given prior offhand remarks from the Defendant about the Plaintiff’s age, as well as the fact that Mr. Rosenberg is 29 years younger than his predecessor. The complaint further alleged breach of contract, with the Plaintiff seeking 26 weeks of severance pay (amounting to $97,500) in addition to compensatory damages for “severe mental anguish and emotional distress.” WABC General Manager Chad Lopez, Cumulus Senior VP Mike McVay, and WABC Program Director Craig Schwalb were also named as Defendants.
The Court found no merit in any of the Plaintiff’s arguments. In reviewing the case, the Court determined that Mr. Wolf “lack[ed] any viable claim under either the NYSHRL or the NYCHRL since the impact of any alleged discrimination would have been in Florida.” Second, the Plaintiff had not “alleged any potentially meritorious factual basis for any of his causes of action, and instead relie[d] on a series of blanket conclusory assertions and assumptions,” with the only specific references to alleged discrimination found in “stray comments made by Imus, a member of the same protected class as Wolf.” The Court also dismissed the breach of contract claim on the basis that the contract had expired. Finally, it was determined that New York had no jurisdiction over Mr. Imus, who has resided in Texas since 2015.
“We are pleased to see a thorough and expeditious resolution to this case,” said Offit Kurman CEO Ted Offit. “It is the kind of outcome that demonstrates the extraordinary skill of our litigators in New York. Well done, Marty and Brendan.”
Martin Garbus has a diverse practice that consists of individuals and companies involved in politics, media, entertainment, and the arts. His courtroom skills have earned him a distinguished reputation as a trial lawyer. Throughout the course of his career, Mr. Garbus has appeared before the United States Supreme Court, as well as myriad trial and appellate courts. A number of his cases have established new legal precedents in the Supreme Court and in courts throughout the country. Over the years, numerous media outlets — including Fortune, CNN, Bloomberg Businessweek, and various legal magazines and journals — have profiled or featured Mr. Garbus, or ranked him among the US legal elite. Time magazine has called him “legendary” and “one of the greatest trial lawyers in the country.”
Brendan Marx represents high-net-worth individuals, businesses and organizations in a wide range of fields, including manufacturing, retail sales, financial services, entertainment, legal services and, other industries. He also represents numerous cooperative corporations and condominium associations, charities, and other nonprofit organizations.
Mr. Garbus and Mr. Marx joined Offit Kurman earlier this year, along with more than a dozen other attorneys from Eaton & Van Winkle and Menaker & Herrmann. To learn more about the firm’s services, capabilities, and recent expansions in New York, visit offitkurman.com.
ABOUT BRENDAN MARX
Mr. Marx represents high-net worth individuals, businesses and organizations in a wide range of fields, including manufacturing, retail sales, financial services, entertainment, legal services, and other industries. He also represents numerous cooperative corporations and condominium associations, charities, and other non-profit organizations.
ABOUT MARTIN GARBUS
Martin Garbus has a diverse practice that consists of individuals and companies involved in politics, media, entertainment, and the arts. His courtroom skills have earned him a distinguished reputation as a trial lawyer.
Mr. Garbus is experienced in every aspect of litigation and trial, from jury selection to cross-examination to summation. He has argued cases throughout the country involving constitutional, criminal, copyright, and intellectual property law. He has appeared before the United States Supreme Court, as well as trial and appellate courts throughout the United States. He has argued and written briefs that have been submitted to the United States Supreme Court; a number of which have resulted in changes in the law on a nationwide basis, including one described by Justice William Brennan as “probably the most important due process case in the Twentieth Century”.
ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN
Offit Kurman is one of the fastest-growing, full-service law firms in the Mid-Atlantic region. With over 170 attorneys offering a comprehensive range of services in virtually every legal category, the firm is well positioned to meet the needs of dynamic businesses and the people who own and operate them. Our twelve offices serve individual and corporate clients in the Virginia, Washington, DC, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City regions. At Offit Kurman, we are our clients’ most trusted legal advisors, professionals who help maximize and protect business value and personal wealth. In every interaction, we consistently maintain our clients’ confidence by remaining focused on furthering their objectives and achieving their goals in an efficient manner. Trust, knowledge, confidence—in a partner, that’s perfect.
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