Court Orders New York Drugstore to Pay Punitive Damages to Artist Represented by NYCLU

March 12, 2004 12:00 am

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NEW YORK CITY–A New York Supreme Court justice has ordered Duane Reade, Inc. to pay punitive damages to a local artist who criticized the drugstore giant’s plan to place a large, lighted billboard on the roof of a Rockaway store, and to a newspaper that ran his advertisement urging a boycott, the New York Civil Liberties Union announced today.

Duane Reade had filed a defamation against artist Patrick Clark and The Wave newspaper after Clark ran a paid advertisement that urged customers to boycott Duane Reade if it did not take down the sign.

“”The Duane Reade lawsuit was a blatant attack on the right of free speech,”” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, who defended the artist in court. “”As the court found, Mr. Clark’s views about an important matter to the Rockaway community were fully protected by the First Amendment.””

Clark had been chosen to create a memorial to local residents killed in the World Trade Center attack. Next to the site of the memorial, Duane Reade was building a store that was to feature a large lighted billboard on the roof. After Duane Reade sued Mr. Clark and the newspaper for defamation, the NYCLU filed papers to have the case dismissed and sought damages on the grounds that the defamation lawsuit was filed in retaliation for the criticism.

In her ruling, Supreme Court Justice Debra James agreed with the NYCLU’s position, dismissed Duane Reade’s lawsuit, and ruled that the lawsuit was so meritless that Clark and the newspaper are entitled to both compensatory and punitive damages. The court found that the case had “”no purpose other than intimidation, harassment and punishment.””

“”Duane Reade’s lawsuit was just another slap in the face of our community. I am grateful the court protected my First Amendment rights,”” Clark said.

The NYCLU defended the artist, Patrick Clark of Rockaway, with the assistance of the law firm Proskauer Rose LLP.

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