Lim Ruger litigators Bryan Sheldon and Norma Nava obtained a $2.1 million jury verdict for defamation against a national real estate sales chain and its CEO. The court also ordered a refund of illegally collected franchise fees to Lim Ruger’s client, a former putative franchisee. After a three week trial, the Orange County Superior Court jury hit the defendants with a verdict of $2,066,000 for defamation and infliction of emotional distress, including punitive damages of $775,000. The court also found that the national real estate sales chain had illegally franchised its business in California and ordered restitution of the franchise fees which had been illegally collected, bringing the total judgment over $2.1 million.
Lim Ruger showed the jury that the chain’s CEO had made dozens of highly abusive and threatening phone calls and emails to the firm’s client (the plaintiff) after a disputed business transaction. The CEO threatened to use his position in the community and his influence over local news organizations to destroy the plaintiff’s reputation unless the plaintiff paid him $100,000. When the plaintiff announced that he would not pay the disputed amount and was terminating his contractual relationship with the chain, the CEO sent several highly defamatory emails about the plaintiff to dozens of real estate professionals and posted the content on the internet. The jury found that the defendants intentionally caused emotional distress and damaged the plaintiff’s reputation and his business.