Hon. Carolyn E. Demarest (Ret.) served as Presiding Justice of the Commercial Division, Supreme Court, Kings County from its inception in 2002 through 2016. As Presiding Justice, Judge Demarest developed the Commercial Division into one of the most influential commercial courts in the country. She is a revered and universally respected figure in the judiciary.
Justice Demarest served for 26 years on the Supreme Court, Kings County, from 1990-2016. Her substantial practice area expertise includes banking, business/commercial, condominium/co-op, class action, employment, environmental, health care, intellectual property, professional liability, and real property. Prior to her term at the Supreme Court, she served as a Justice for five years in the Family Court of the State of New York where she gained expertise in matrimonial and family law matters.
Justice Demarest began practice as an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Floam where she handled both corporate and litigation matters. Following service to Civil Court Judge Stanley Danzig as a Law Clerk, Justice Demarest served for seven years as Assistant Chief of the Appeals Division of the New York City Corporation Counsel where she was responsible for drafting briefs and arguing appeals on all aspects of city business including issues of constitutional, administrative and municipal law, labor, torts, contracts, education and civil service law.
In 1985, Mayor Koch appointed Justice Demarest to the Family Court of the State of New York where she continued to serve until her appointment to the Supreme Court by Governor Mario Cuomo in 1990. In 1991, Justice Demarest was elected to the New York State Supreme Court, Kings County.
Justice Demarest is known as a leader in jurisprudence within the legal community. She has served on the Civil Law and Skills Curriculum Committees for the annual Judicial Seminars and was the editor and an author of the Kings County Criminal Term Manual. She is a frequent lecturer for New York State Bar Association CLE courses and was a member of the New York State Bar Association Task Force on CLE.
In her thirty-three years on the bench, including 14 years as Presiding Justice of the Commercial Division, Supreme Court, Kings County, Justice Demarest presided over thousands of cases and accumulated significant experience in a broad spectrum of practice areas. Select examples of representative matters she presided over include:
- Hundreds of cases involving alleged breaches of contracts of all kinds, including sales contracts in which fraud in the inducement relating to volume of sales, quality of product, or misrepresentations concerning market share and unfair competition constituting alleged breaches of non-compete clauses and tortuous interference with contract, were at issue
- Numerous cases involving the dissolution of corporations and limited liability companies, often including allegations of breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. Many of these matters involved family business relationships, and occasionally, estate-related problems in which multiple generations of family members were disputing entitlements
- Multiple cases involving failure of a former employee to comply with the terms of a non-compete or trade secrets confidentiality provision in an employment contract. Such actions frequently included claims for damages against the new employer for unfair competition
- Multiple cases requiring a determination whether a purported contract established a joint venture or created an enforceable contract for the sale of real property
- Cases involving allegations of waste and mismanagement, self-dealing, and various claims of fraud constituting a breach of fiduciary duty
- A case involving a multi-year action brought by several limited partners in a real estate tax shelter partnership against a general partner for fraud, mismanagement, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract in his conversion of virtually all interest in a Manhattan office building which he sold. After numerous dispositive motions, Judge Demarest entered a settlement among the parties
- Several cases involving complex issues of international jurisdiction.
- A case involving the alleged fraudulent sale of an interest in a real property development in part of the former Soviet Union which the plaintiff claimed never materialized. The case involved substantial issues of jurisdiction over the defendants since there were few contacts with New York and the plaintiff had actually entered the contract in the foreign country.
- A case requiring rejection of jurisdiction involving property located in Israel, with a New York Corporation as the corporate plaintiff, while several of the defendant corporations were incorporated in other states of the United States.
- Class Action
- Presided over several class actions, from challenges by shareholders to the sale of the assets of a major utility company, claims by subscribers to cell phone service that they had been improperly billed, complaints by property owners that a cable/telephone service provider had attached equipment to their property without permission, thereby trespassing on their property and effecting a de facto inverse condemnation, to claims of inadequate compensation for labor, particularly overtime, under New York Labor Law
- Presided over a case involving issues of an illegal immigrant’s right to sue for prevailing wages for work on public works projects in light of the federal Immigration and Reform Control Act of 1986
- Certified a class of home attendants who worked 24-hour shifts, but resided outside the home of their patients, and were not paid for all of the hours they were required to be present in the patient’s home
- Numerous cases involving claims of breach of contract, sexual harassment, and discrimination (age, gender, race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation), hostile work environment, wrongful termination, retaliation, and claims related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), executive compensation, and FLSA
- Numerous cases involving wastewater and storm water discharges, hazardous waste management, exposure and contamination, toxic torts, mold, asbestos, lead paint, groundwater contamination and habitability
- Health Care
- Numerous cases in the health care industry including disputes over payment, reimbursement and insurance, breach of contract claims, medical partnership dissolutions, professional liability and product claims and employment-related matters
- Authorized the transfer of substantially all assets of the Long Island College Hospital (LICH) to the State University of New York's Downstate Medical Center under the Not-For-Profit Corporation Law, simultaneously creating the LICH Malpractice Trust with funds from a bequest to LICH. This transfer ultimately resulted in substantial subsequent litigation when the State altered its commitment to maintain the hospital
- Presided over an inventory of cases related to the formation of the Malpractice Trust for LICH. The Trust was established to provide compensation for claims of professional malpractice and general liability extant at the time of the transfer of the hospital’s assets to SUNY-Downstate. Pursuant to Justice Demarest’s orders, the cases were resolved against LICH through negotiation, mediation or arbitration. Justice Demarest approved compensation in cases of wrongful death and infant compromises. She also ruled on matters of contested liability and directed the manner in which claims were evaluated under the terms of the Trust, including allocations to the Medical Indemnity Fund for infants suffering neurological injury at birth, as well as the computation of attorney’s fees
- Cases involving a broad spectrum of complex insurance issues including matters related to bad faith, coverage, property damage, reinsurance, subrogation, policy language and regulation
- Determined the value of a complex spiral of insurance and re-insurance liability in a matter involving the purchase by a foreign company of the assets of an American insurance company in which the ultimate terms of the purchase, including price, were at issue
- In multiple cases, considered the application of New York Insurance Law prohibitions against brokers’ rebates and the broker’s fiduciary duty to procure necessary and adequate insurance to meet the needs of the insured
- Intellectual Property
- Cases involving copyright, trademark, trade secret and patent disputes
- Professional Liability
- Presided over numerous medical malpractice cases involving claims of improper diagnosis, sub-standard care treatment and failure to monitor patient progress
- Legal malpractice cases involving fee disputes, conflict of interest, expiration of statute of limitations, allowing defaults on motions, breach of retainer agreement, and failure to properly perform legal services
- Real Property
- Presided over dozens of cases claiming the fraudulent conveyance of assets, especially real property, in violation of a creditor’s rights
- Numerous cases involving commercial mortgage foreclosures and contracts for the purchase of real property
- Numerous cases calling for the interpretation of lease obligations and seeking a Yellowstone stay pending the resolution of claims that the lease had been breached
- Several matters of residential mortgage foreclosure in which defenses of predatory lending, unconscionability and lack of standing due to imperfect multiple assignments of the mortgage debt were raised
Additional Representative Matters
- Numerous cases involving claims by a bank customer that the bank had breached a duty to fund construction or bridge financing for a project after initially granting the application for such funding, resulting in damages to the customer
- Case involving the determination of a recovery to be accorded a corporate investor which had invested the assets of its employee pension plan with the Bernard Madoff Investment Securities LLC
- Numerous cases involving condominium conversion and development
- Multiple disputes tied to complaints of defective construction
- Case involving claim that the sponsor had breached its obligations by failing to obtain J-51 tax benefits for the condominium
- Settled a case involving a cooperative conversion of six rental apartment buildings containing 455 units previously rent controlled or stabilized, the sponsor’s failure to sell 70% of the units over a twenty year period, retaining them for rental at market rates at significant profit