Kerr & Wagstaffe wins $1.1 million verdict for client in defamation trial

Second Unanimous Jury Verdict in as Many Months for Firm

(San Luis Obispo, California, March 16, 2017).  A unanimous jury in San Luis Obispo found Defendants CalCoastNews and its owner Karen Velie and Senior Correspondent Daniel Blackburn liable for defaming local businessman and Kerr and Wagstaffe client Charles Tenborg.  The jury awarded him $1.1 million in damages, including $500,000 in punitive damages.

Mr. Tenborg is an environmental scientist and well-respected local businessman.  He has worked for years to protect the environment in San Luis Obispo County by ensuring proper transportation, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes.   In 2012, Defendants published a malicious, defamatory, and false article about Mr. Tenborg.  Defendants falsely claimed that Plaintiff had previously been fired from a government job, was wrongfully obtaining no-bid contracts with local government for his private company in violation of state law, and was illegally transporting hazardous waste.  The article also juxtaposed a picture of radioactive waste next to Tenborg’s photo, even though Tenborg and his company never handled radioactive waste.  Defendants refused to retract the story even when its outright and easily verifiable falsehoods were brought their immediate attention.  Kerr & Wagstaffe, on behalf of Tenborg, defeated Defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion in 2015 (Tenborg v. CalCoastNews et al., 2015 WL 4537168).  The case proceeded to trial on March 6, 2017.

“We are happy that the Jury recognized the publication for the muckraking hit piece that it is,” said Mr. Tenborg’s attorney, Jim Wagstaffe.  “It is exactly this type of scandalmongering reporting that harms the reputation of the media and responsible reporters who adhere to ethical standards.” 

The case was tried by James Wagstaffe and Ivo Labar. Defendants were represented at trial by a number of San Luis Obispo attorneys, including Jim Duenow, David Vogel, James McKiernan and Ingo Brauer.

Mr. Wagstaffe and Mr. Labar also tried Wadler v. Bio-Rad, Case No. 15-02356 in the Northern District of California before the Hon. Joseph Spero last month.  That trial resulted in a unanimous verdict of $11.5 million in damages and $3.5 million in attorneys’ fees and costs.  Opposing counsel in that matter was Quinn Emanuel and Latham & Watkins. 

Founded in 1999, Kerr & Wagstaffe LLP's San Francisco litigators and appellate attorneys have a national reputation for excellence. We advise and represent a diverse array of clients, including Fortune 500 companies, start-up and closely-held business ventures, public entities, judges, law firms and individuals alike, in an equally diverse range of disputes. Our practice is nationwide in matters spanning from two-party disputes to complex litigation. The Firm takes pride in our record of success for our clients. We are often sought out by law firms that refer — or partner with us on — the toughest cases and most challenging appeals.

Mr. Tenborg’s attorneys can be reached at 415-371-8500.

Categories: Firm News