Ex-Nashville Scene Staff Writer P.J. Tobia has been hit with a defamation lawsuit in Davidson County Circuit Court, the second such legal action taken against the reporter and Scene in the past year.
The recent plaintiff is La Vision Advertising head Anthony Lucas. His suit charges Tobia's May 1, 2008 article, “A Prominent Advertising Executive is Accused of Fraud and Extortion,” was untrue when it portrayed Lucas as under police suspicion for extortion.
“The representation is not only defamatory but also defamatory per se in that this representation wrongly and inaccurately had and has a tendency to injure the plaintiff in his office, profession, calling or trade: that of an advertising executive,” the filing reads.
“Mr. PJ Tobia was given the opportunity to see the verification of all the questions that he asked. He refused to see the supporting evidence,” Lucas told The City Paper. “It was offered to him, it is on tape, he has a copy of it. I have a copy of it. He refused to do it.”
Lucas' suit asks for $5 million in damages. He has yet to engage an attorney for his case. Scene Editor Pete Kotz said the company's legal team would fight the suit and declined further comment.
This is the second recent defamation suit targeting Tobia, who has left the Scene to work as a freelance correspondent in Afghanistan. The first suit stemmed from an article the writer did in October 2007 representing an adult dancer as engaged in prostitution. The dancer — Michelle Peacock — filed a defamation suit last October.
According to Steve Suskin, legal counsel for Scene parent company Village Voice Media, Peacock's lawsuit is still pending.
United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee
Heritage Equity Group 401(k) Savings Plan, et al. vs. Mid Atlantic Capital Corp. and SunGard Institutional Brokerage Inc. Filed April 30. After years of litigation stemming from the implosion of 1Point Solutions following the fraud perpetrated by its founder Barry Stokes, more of the civil cases filed by victims are being settled.
An order filed late last month by Judge Aleta Trauger effectively brought to an end the case brought by a group of creditors led by the Heritage Equity 401(k) plan, which was formerly known as Beck/Arnley Worldparts. They had filed a claim against Mid Atlantic and SunGard, seeking the restitution of money they had been embezzled by Stokes’ companies.
Back in September, the court had dismissed all of the claims against the defendants save for their common-law negligence claim. According to the recent order, Sunguard has agreed to pay $950,000 into “a trust account designated by counsel for the Plaintiffs pending distribution to the Plaintiffs.”
Allstate Insurance Co. v. Piedmont Natural Gas Co. Inc. Filed May 5. Chicago-based Allstate’s complaint Nashville Gas’ parent company centers on a 2007 gas leak beneath a residence insured by Allstate. The leak went undetected and eventually ignited, causing an explosion that not surprisingly caused significant damage to the house.
Allstate paid out just shy of $240,000 for the claim and is now seeking to recover that amount plus attorney’s fees and prejudgment interest from Piedmont.
Filing the lawsuit locally on behalf of the Chicago insurer is private-practice attorney J. David Wicker Jr.
Center for Comprehensive Services Inc. vs. Sumner Regional Health Systems. Filed May 1. Boston-based CCS says Sumner Regional owes it roughly a half million dollars worth of fees stemming from an engagement last year.
According to the complaint, CCS contracted with Sumner to provide “management, clinical, and nursing services.” CCS claims that from June to September of 2008, it did not receive any payments from Sumner. In March, the hospital paid $27,500 towards the balance, but the lawsuit claims CCS is still owed more than $434,000.
Filing the lawsuit on behalf of CCS are Brigid M. Carpenter and William A. Lewis of Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz.
Sumner Regional hit dire financial straits in 2008, which early this year led credit ratings agency Fitch Ratings to downgrade the hospital, saying “the organization is experiencing tremendous financial stress resulting in a profound weakening of its credit profile.”
U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Vermeer of Tennessee Inc. Chapter 11 petition filed May 5. The Murfreesboro-based heavy equipment dealer was founded in 1991 and sells and rents equipment from such manufacturers as Vermeer, Wildcat and Yanmar. Initial court documents did not list a lot of specific numbers, but ballparks the company's liabilities at between $10 million and $50 million and its assets at less than $50,000. Among the business' largest creditors are Birmingham-based Central Leasing, Illinois-based GE Capital and Chicago-based Hitachi Capital.
The company is being represented by attorney Samuel K. Crocker. Calls to the firm's president, Wendell De Vries, have not been returned.