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NY Court Sustains $150 Million Jury Verdict in Defamation & Tortious Interference Case


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1/1/2016
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The facts of this case are rather disturbing. Worse yet, I seriously doubt the plaintiff will be able to collect on this judgment, even though he certainly deserves to recoup something. In Cantu v. Flanigan, the plaintiff was a Mexican businessman who, over several decades in the oil and other industries, had built a worldwide reputation for integrity. The defendant, frustrated over his inability to collect nearly $800 million he claimed he was owed by a Mexican union, chose to exert pressure to exact "his money" by blackmailing the plaintiff. How did he do this? By publishing fabricated claims (in legal terms, "defamation") that the plaintiff had made his fortune through illicit means, including money laundering and "rigging bid contracts" in an effort to compel him to either force the union to pay, or for him to pay the money out of his own pocket in exchange for a retraction. In fact, when confronted about these allegations by plaintiff, the defendant responded that he "did not care whether the statements were true or not, and that he just wanted his money." The defendant's fabricated claims were picked up by a Mexican reporter, who then published an article that disseminated the story worldwide. As a result, both the U.S. and Mexican governments investigated the plaintiff; and while both investigations found the allegations against the plaintiff completely unfounded, the cloud of the investigations led several companies to back out of multi-million dollar deals that had been negotiated with the plaintiff (i.e., tortious interference with contract, and tortious interference with prospective advantage). So why do I think the plaintiff will have trouble collecting on this judgment? Simple: (1) there are very few people who can afford to pay a judgment of this magnitude; and, (2) I noticed that the defendant represented himself at the trial of this case, and, quite frankly, I cannot imagine anyone of significant means wanting to represent themselves, i.e., without an attorney, when the ramifications of a multi-million dollar judgment are looming. This leaves me with another nagging question: why didn't the plaintiff sue the magazine that published the story - and did so without verifying any of the facts ? Presumably, they would have some means to satisfy a judgment, and he would therefore be able to recoup some of his losses.



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