Victor Yannacone often shaped the body of law through major litigation. Over the decades he has brought new technologies, trends and discoveries to courtrooms and Boardrooms. He has represented clients from all walks of life and championed causes in many fields, from science to finance.
Persuading courts to transform academic theories for legal protection of individuals and the environment into remedies can be formidable. The law may be a vast collection of miscellaneous unfamiliar precedents. Worst of all it may be non-existent.
What follows is a sampling of the major litigation through which Victor Yannacone shaped the law to protect his clients and assert the public interest.
Recovery of New York State worker’s compensation benefits for occupational disease arising from exposure to ionizing radiation.
Establishing the rights of the Freeholders & Commonalty of the Town of Brookhaven guaranteed under certain seventeenth century colonial charters to the benefit, use and enjoyment of more than five miles of beach along the shore of Long Island Sound.
Recovery of damages to a racing sloop sunk by the wake of a high speed ferry boat.
Incorporation of the Village of Port Jefferson.
Action against major oil companies, sand and gravel operators and the Brookhaven Town Board for conspiracy to deny the Freeholders & Commonalty of the Town of Brookhaven the benefit, use and enjoyment of Port Jefferson Harbor.
Defense of the editor and publisher of the weekly Port Jefferson Sentinel accused of libel for publication of a topical satirical poem concerning the politically inspired opposition to the Port Jefferson Village incorporation.
Defense of Plaintiffs’ counsel accused of libel for allegations of conspiracy contained in a complaint against public officials.
Action in prima facie tort against public figures and counsel for malicious interference with the de jure incorporation of the Village of Port Jefferson following the public referendum in favor of incorporation.
Substantial settlement during trial of claim by widow and minor child of a man who died from fright after witnessing a two-car collision in which one of the vehicles went out of control and stopped just short of hitting the window behind which the decedent was working and watching.
As pro bono assigned counsel, won jury acquittal of indigent defendant accused of First Degree Arson, a capital offense at that time.
During a period of racial unrest, obtained an injunction upon constitutional grounds preventing the Town of Riverhead from enforcing a Parade & Assembly Ordinance prohibiting a protest march by the N.A.A.C.P.
Action against the Long Island Duck Industry for pollution of the public waters of Great South Bay along the South Shore of Brookhaven Town and Southampton Town.
Defense of the rights of the Trustees of the Freeholders & Commonalty of the Town of Brookhaven in and to the ownership and control of lands under the waters of Great South Bay under seventeenth century colonial charters.
Action restraining the Suffolk County Mosquito Control Commission from continued use of the broad spectrum, persistent, chemical biocide DDT. This was the action which established Environmental Law as an independent legal discipline and launched the Environment Movement.
Successful defense of a white woman attendant at the Suffolk County Home & Infirmary accused of illicit sexual activity with a paralyzed black patient.
Action on behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund against the Michigan Department of Agriculture preventing the application of dieldrin to the shores of Lake Michigan in a futile attempt to control a Japanese beetle infestation.
Action against 56 Michigan cities resulting in their agreement to discontinue the use of DDT in the attempted control of Dutch elm disease.
Constitutional challenge to an ordinance of the Village of Patchogue prohibiting the vending of foods from mobile catering trucks.
Action against the Suffolk County Mosquito Control Commission resulting in elimination of the use of broad-spectrum, persistent pesticides in estuarine areas.
Action against a local Board of Education asserting the constitutional right of the electorate to choose school board members by general election.
Action against the Republican and Democratic County Leaders of Suffolk County asserting a constitutional right on behalf of the general public that political parties present candidates for judicial office chosen from among sitting Judges with prior satisfactory judicial experience.
Action against the daily newspaper Newsday to compel the printing of all the relevant facts concerning an alleged political scandal, rather than merely those facts chosen by its editorial staff.
Action on behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund to compel the Hoerner-Waldorf Company to install and operate state-of-the-art pollution control equipment in its kraft paper mill at Missoula, Montana on the grounds that the people of the Missoula Regional Airshed are entitled to the full benefit, use and enjoyment of the air without degradation resulting from the emission of reduced sulfur compounds by the kraft paper mill.
Action on behalf of the Citizens Natural Resources Council and the Environmental Defense Fund to declare DDT a pollutant under the water quality provisions of the laws of State of Wisconsin. Trial hearings continued for six months before an Administrative Law Judge of the Department of Natural Resources of the State of Wisconsin and the citizen petition was defended by the Industry Task Force for DDT of the National Agricultural Chemicals Association.
Action to compel certain Brookhaven Town Councilmen and certain lessees of Brookhaven Town Trustees property at Port Jefferson Harbor to account for profits from their leases and pay over to the Trustees of the Freeholders & Commonalty of the Town of Brookhaven the difference between the rents paid and the reasonable value of the leaseholds—approximately $400,000.
Protection of the Florissant fossil beds from development by private land speculators prior to establishment of the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument by Congress. The action successfully asserted the fundamental right of the American people to protection of this unique national natural resource treasure and restrained the private landowners from disturbing the subsoil of the Oligocene (~30 million years ago) lake bed while the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument Bill was pending before the Congress.
Action against the Austral Oil Company, CER Geonuclear Corporation and the Atomic Energy Commission preventing the release of radionuclides in Colorado prior to full scientific evaluation and judicial review of the environmental consequences of such release. Although the Project Rulison litigation was by no means an unmitigated victory for the environmentalists seeking to stop the use of nuclear weapons for fracking in order to free-up “tight” natural gas reserves, for the first time since it was created after World War II, the Atomic Energy Commission was forced to stand trial on the issue of radiation safety standards, a matter traditionally considered within its exclusive discretion and the uncontrolled flaring of tritiated natural gas was restrained.
Action against the Army Corps of Engineers to restrain further development of the Cross Florida Barge Canal until the true social costs and actual public benefits had been determined.
Civil anti-trust action against the major manufacturers of DDT for false advertising and conspiracy to withhold from American people and federal regulatory agencies information about long-term harmful effects of DDT on the environment.
Action against American Smelting & Refining Company (ASARCO) to require installation of existing state-of-the-art pollution control technology at all the company operations— mines, smelters, refineries and manufacturing installations.
Action against the County of Suffolk to prevent construction of a new County Road, and widening of an existing road which would have caused serious permanent and irreparable damage to the historic Carman’s River until County Highway route selection methods and maintenance practices respected modern principles of environmental systems science.
Action against the County of Suffolk, its 10 Townships and 29 Incorporated Villages to set aside their zoning laws as ecologically unsophisticated, environmentally irresponsible, socially irrelevant and politically naive; because those zoning laws failed to provide for the highest and best use of the land, landscape, natural and cultural resources of the County of Suffolk, in accordance with modern concepts of environmental systems science.
Children or Chattels: the Baby Angela litigation on behalf of foster parents to retain custody of a Chinese infant abandoned by her natural mother at birth and placed with a Jewish Caucasian foster parents by the Spence Chapin Adoption Service. Arguing that children were not chattels, this litigation led to substantive changes in the laws of the State of New York governing adoptions and eventually established the right of foster parents to raise issues concerning the best interests of an infant in actions brought by the natural mother to recover custody.
The Gettysburg National Battlefield Tower litigation.
As Hearing Officer for the Adirondack State Park Commission, successfully completed controverted adversary hearings challenging the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee and rendered a decision which permitted the 1980 Winter Olympics to proceed at Lake Placid without serious, permanent and irreparable damage to the John Brown National Historic Site and the unique national natural resource treasures of the Adirondack State Park.
Lead counsel for the Viet Nam combat veterans and their families in the Agent Orange class action litigation against the war contractors who manufactured and sold phenoxy herbicides contaminated with “dioxin,” the extraordinarily toxic 2,3,7,8-tetrachloro dibenzo-p-dioxin.
Action on behalf of Viet Nam combat veterans and their families against the Veterans Administration to improve the quality of care for Viet Nam combat veterans and to prevent the indiscriminate prescription of psychotropic drugs.
Class action on behalf of the Conservation Council of Western Australia and the Australian Conservation Foundation against ALCOA and Reynolds Metals Company to prevent further destruction of the Northern Jarrah Forest of Western Australia by the American aluminum industry.
Defense of the editor and publisher of The Main Street Press accused of libel for attacking the closing of a public road by an adjacent landowner.
Successful settlement of litigation arising out of a gasoline spill from a Sun Oil Company service Station on Bluebell Lane, West Islip. The affected families were relocated with long term medical monitoring and catastrophic health insurance and term life insurance protection.
Action on behalf of a second year medical student at the State University of New York/Stony Brook who was dismissed for allegedly cheating on examinations.
Action on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Freeholders & Commonalty of the Town of Brookhaven against the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to prohibit siting of a single large-scale Long Island Regional Ashfill in a hydrologically sensitive area of southern Brookhaven Town.
Action on behalf of the Trustees of the Freeholders & Commonalty of the Town of Brookhaven against General Electric Co., Monsanto Company, and Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation to mitigate the damage attributable to the marine environment of the State of New York as a result of the discharge of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River and to restore the striped bass sport fishery of the State of New York after it had been suspended by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Action against the Aetna Casualty & Surety Company for indemnification of costs for the conduct of a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) assessed by the Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) against a local factory which had been operating for many years in compliance with a NPDES/SPDES permit.
Action against the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to restrain it from imposing the cost of a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS against a landowner in the absence of substantial evidence of soil or ground water contamination.
Actions against the Office of Health Technology Assessment (OHTA), United States Public Health Service (USPHS) and the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), United States Department of Health & Human Services to establish high resolution digital thermal imaging as a reasonable and necessary medical diagnostic procedure.
Action against the international trading company (chaebol), Hyundai, and major piano manufacturer, Samick, on behalf of local distributors of pianos manufactured by Samick for sale under the private label, Schumann. Samick discontinued manufacture of pianos for sale under the name Schumann and the action charged Robinson-Patman Act violations, anti-competitive actions, and business torts.
Of counsel to attorney for animal companion owners in Long Island Pet Cemetery litigation. Services included assisting in the drafting of legislation eventually adopted by the Town of Brookhaven, the County of Suffolk, and the State of New York.
Of counsel/Trial Counsel to attorney for commission paper sales agents seeking to recover commissions after unilateral termination of engagement by paper company and while sales were continuing with a large account secured by the sales agents. The “statute of frauds” defense was overcome even though there was no written agreement among the parties.
Of counsel to attorney for homeowners opposing expansion of local landfill into groundwater recharge area.
Of counsel and Planning Consultant to attorney for farmer seeking to protect and preserve the agricultural values of the Hanalei Valley Regional Ecosystem of Northwestern Kaua‘i; action challenging the proposed land use reclassification scheme of the Hawai‘i Office of State Planning as ecologically unsophisticated, environmentally irresponsible, socially disruptive, and economically irrational.
Special Counsel to the Wappingers Central School District in the matter of Stephan Ira Praino, et al. v Wappingers Central School District, et al. in which a junior high school student sought extraordinary special education services because of exogenous obesity and dissatisfaction with the public school environment.
Of counsel/Trial Counsel in action against Velsicol Chemical Company, the manufacturer of chlordane, for damages resulting from misapplication of the chemical for termite control in a local home.
Successful action against Otis Spunkmeyer, Inc. for wrongful termination and age discrimination.
Successful recovery in a limited class action on behalf of health care providers and insurers to recover overcharges by Purdue Pharma on the controlled release oxycodone, OxyContin.
Class action to protect the unique and irreplaceable national and international resource treasure, the Flint Hills Tallgrass Prairie Ecosystem.
As chair of the volunteer transition team responsible for reorganization and modernization of the office of the Brookhaven Town Clerk which had been established in the late 17th century and was still operating using procedures and practices from the colonial period and early days of the Republic. In the course of the eight weeks following the November elections, without the use of outside consultants or contractors and with the existing staff, the office made the transition to use of modern data processing technology and electronic office management systems on the way towards becoming as paperless as the laws of the state of New York would allow. By the new year the public services offered by Office were provided to the more than 400,000 people in the Town with a level of efficiency and dispatch that had never been contemplated and without any significant increase in cost to the taxpayers or additional fees to those requiring services from the Town Clerk. In addition, the colonial records of the office which had been maintained for more than 200 years were properly conserved, protected, and preserved as the priceless historical treasure trove they were providing a view of the organization and evolution of local government in New York state from the time of thecolonial land grant Charters to the first State Constitution.