On Wednesday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Cynthia Kern issued a ruling that Kenechukwu Okoli is not allowed to pursue slander and civil assault claims made against Allan Bloom. Bloom is a partner from Paul Hastings who was slapped by Okoli. The lawsuit was filed in May by Okoli, who claims that he had been provoked by Bloom into slapping him. Okoli said that Bloom waved his finger at him and accidentally spat on him when he was screaming during a deposition. The deposition was part of a lawsuit about employment discrimination against Marsh USA, Inc.
Okoli was representing former Marsh employee Gisela Brooks. The complaint said that Okoli was described as “uncivilized, ignorant and incompetent” by Bloom. Paul Hastings has said that the comments made by Bloom were in the ‘heat-of-the-moment’ because he was provoked by Okoli. Okoli continuously told Bloom to ‘keep his mouth shut.’
After the slap occurred, an order was issued by Kings County Justice Nancy Saitta that depositions must occur at Paul Hastings and have to be videotaped by Okoli and his expense. Paul Hastings and Bloom were sued in May in Manhattan Supreme Court by Okoli for $1.1 million.
“As these allegedly defamatory statements were made in the course of a deposition, which is a judicial proceeding, they are cloaked with immunity, and thus, cannot be actionable,” Kern wrote.
Assault claims were dismissed by Kern as well that were made by Okoli. Those claims revolved around the finger-wagging and spitting by Bloom. According to the judge, Okoli was not able to prove that the conduct put him in “imminent apprehension of harmful contact.”
Allan Whitescarver, a spokesperson for Paul Hastings, said, “We’re pleased with Justice Kern’s decision to dismiss the complaint, and gratified to contribute to U.S. caselaw precedent that the threat of spittle is not a cause of action.”