A federal judge has overturned a jury decision compelling Islip Town to pay bayman Frank Sloup $2.1 million for putting him out of business by banning his crab and eel pots, though the judge upheld the jury's finding that the town violated Sloup's constitutional rights.
U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Bianco, in a ruling issued Thursday, ordered a new trial to determine compensatory and punitive damages.
Bianco denied the town's motion for a new trial on the entire case, ruling that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find in favor of Sloup, 64, a Bay Shore fisherman whose traps were banned from the town's creeks and harbor areas during the 2004 season.
Sloup subsequently lost his home and bait shop to foreclosure.
The bayman sued in 2005, and last year a federal jury awarded him $1.8 million in compensatory damages, as well as $150,000 in punitive damages against both Alan Loeffler, the former head of the town's harbor unit, and Craig Pomroy, one of his constables.
Bianco threw out that award, calling it "an amount that shocks the conscience of the Court and is clearly a gross miscarriage of justice." The judge found that the jury had incorrectly awarded Sloup compensatory damages for income lost in the years following 2004, and that Sloup had not presented evidence for the equity he had lost in the foreclosure of his property.
Both sides Friday claimed victory.
"It's a very, very victorious decision for us," assistant town attorney Erin Sidaris said. "He used cash receipts. It's going to be incredibly difficult for him" to prove damages in that amount.
Sloup's attorney, Craig Purcell of Hauppauge, said, "This is a win. The judge found in our favor on every single issue."
As for proving damages, he said: "We are more than happy to accept that challenge."