There is a bizarre lawsuit shaping up in Manhattan. Lawyer Kenechukwu Okoli has filed a defamation and assault complaint against Paul Hastings partner Allan Bloom over an encounter at a 2011 deposition. During the deposition Okoli slapped Bloom and now claims that he was assaulted by accidental spittle and defamed when Bloom called him “uncivilized, ignorant and incompetent.” Remarkably, Bloom did not file for assault but in his Motion To Dismiss, Bloom (the accused spitter) says that there is no grounds for libel or assault by Okoli (the alleged spittee), who is seeking $1 million.
The deposition inolved an employee discrimination case tbrought by Okoli’s client, Olga Caro, against Marsh USA, represented by Bloom. The two lawyers appear to have butted head in the deposition. Okoli allegedly told Bloom repeatedly to “keep your mouth shut.” At some point, Bloom became outraged with Okoli and starting pointing his finger close to his face and yelling. Okoli says the “spittle from Bloom’s wide open mouth hit Okoli’s face.” Okali says that he responded with the slap “to protect himself” apparently from more spittle assault.
The libel component of the action in my view is meritless. That is opinion uttered in the heat of a contested deposition. I am not sure why such a claim is included in a complaint because it undermines the credibility of the entire action.
It would seem that Bloom has a better assault claim here, though spittle technically can be the basis for assault. The complaint appears to acknowledge that the spittle was accidental — the result of the combination of a “wide open mouth” and yelling. This might require a spittle expert.
Of course, it appears that Bloom can claim a free speech defense now that spit is an artform:
Rough medium . . . particularly during rush hour. (by the way, the guy has talent).
Source: American Lawyer