Challenged Statements Protected By Absolute Privilege, COA affirmsOlivia Covington for www.theindianalawyer.comThe Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed partial summary judgment for an Indianapolis law firm in a defamation case, finding the challenged statements made by the firm were protected by absolute privilege.The case of Thomas N. Eckerle v. Katz & Korin, P.C. and Michael W. Hile, 49A02-1608-CT-1894, centers around a series of claims related to Boone County Utilities LLC, a failed utility company. In 1995, Newland Resources LLC and Branham Corp. entered into an agreement to form BCU; it subsequently filed for bankruptcy in 2003.A liquidation plan for BCU “‘called for BCU’s creditors to be paid 100 percent of their allowed claims and for the distribution of $3.0 million to Newland, BCU’s sole member, per its allowed equity interest.” Shortly thereafter, Branham filed for bankruptcy, and Indiana attorney Thomas Eckerle represented Newland in those bankruptcy proceedings.Branham also sued Newland and other defendants related to the BCU transaction, including Eckerle, alleging conversion, conspiracy and breach of contract. The conversion and conspiracy claims were dismissed, and Branham was awarded roughly $390,000 from Newland on the breach of contract claims.Then in 2011, Branham, represented by now defunct-firm Stewart & Irwin, once again sued Newland and Eckerle, this time asserting criminal offenses related to the distribution of certain BCU-related funds, from which Branham said it was entitled to treble damages. Those claims were not successful, but in 2012, BCU reopened its bankruptcy action and filed a complaint against Branham and S&I, urging the bankruptcy court to declare its rulings had a preclusive effect relating to Branham’s claims. That case was known as AP-128.Katz & Korin P.C. and attorney Michael Hile entered their appearance for S&I, which was later dismissed without prejudice from the proceedings, subject to BCU’s right to later seek sanctions. BCU then filed an amended complaint in bankruptcy court, which Katz & Korin moved to dismiss.Eckerle then moved to intervene as a plaintiff in AP-128, alleging that Hile had made “defamatory, despicable and completely unfounded charges of bankruptcy fraud” against him, including referring to his work for Newland as “monkeyshines” and alleging he was hired to assist in the “fraudulent transfer of assets.” The firm filed a response on Nov. 4, 2013, and the bankruptcy court denied Eckerle’s motion. The court also struck the Nov. 4 document “since it was filed by an entity not a party to this adversary proceeding.”Eckerle then filed a defamation, invasion of privacy and abuse of process case in October 2015. He raised multiple claims of libel against Hile for statements he made during the proceedings, but the firm claimed absolute privilege, among other affirmative defenses. The parties filed cross-motions for partial summary judgment, which the court granted to the firm and Hile, finding the firm had absolute privilege because the statements were “relevant and pertinent” to AP-128.The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed, with Judge Patricia Riley writing the alleged defamatory statements were relevant because they were the result of BCU’s bankruptcy, from which AP-128 stemmed. Similarly, because S&I was originally party to AP-128 and because Katz & Korin served as counsel for S&I throughout the proceedings, the statements can be protected by absolute privilege, Riley wrote.Finally, relying on the decision in Briggs v. Clinton County Bank & Trust Co., 452 N.E.2d 989, 997 (Ind. Ct. App. 1983), the appellate panel found the statements made by the firm in the Nov. 4 document are protected, even though the court struck the document.FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmail
“It was different in my day, we were at the best club in the country then but we have been used to players dictating terms over the last five or six years. “The club retains its status but as a team they don’t and if players want to be guaranteed Champions League every season, history over the last five years tells you maybe it isn’t Liverpool.” Liverpool’s Champions League-winning midfielder Dietmar Hamann also agreed that if Sterling did not want to stay he should be sold. “I think Liverpool needs players who are committed now and if he feels his future is elsewhere then good luck to him,” said the former Germany international. “If he gets offered more money, Champions League football or a better opportunity to win trophies then that is his right to do that. “All you can do is put a price on him and if someone pays it you sell and you get other players in.” Hamann understood the fans who booed Sterling but does not feel the situation is irretrievable should the England star stay on. “It should have been handled behind closed doors because there is a lot of anger in the city now concerning Raheem Sterling for no need,” he added. “I think he has been badly advised. He is a young kid and sometimes you can be led astray when people say the wrong things in your ear. “I hope he does stay but I think the fans will be the big issue. “Not many people have been too complementary about him in recent days and that is for a reason. “There are bridges to build but it has been done before. If he starts next season and scores a few goals, things would be forgotten.” The 20-year-old’s future is up in the air after contract talks were put on hold in January with a meeting between his agent Aidy Ward and chief executive Ian Ayre scheduled for later this week. It has been claimed the youngster will tell the club he will not sign a new deal – subsequently played down by Ward – but Molby feels there is no point keeping an unsettled player. And the Dane insists any sale would pale into insignificance compared to Luis Suarez’s departure to Barcelona last season. “If Raheem feels Liverpool is no longer the best place to be then I guess you have to bite the bullet and move him on,” said Molby. “It is not like the sale of Suarez. You knew the impact that sale would have on the team – I am not convinced if you sell Sterling it will have the same negative impact. “In my mind it might be the right time to sell because the club is in transition and maybe we could just do with that money. “I think we need to move away from buying potential and buy off the top-shelf, ready-made players, who can go in and improve the team.” Molby believes supporters are still trying to come to terms with the talent drain out of Anfield over the last decade. Fans booed Sterling when he collected his young player of the year trophy at Tuesday’s annual awards night but the former Reds midfielder insists it was a sign of the times. “A lot of fans of Liverpool, steeped in the history, are not used to players wanting to leave so it has come as a bit of a shock,” he added. Press Association Former Liverpool midfielder Jan Molby believes the club should sell Raheem Sterling if the forward does not want to stay as he believes they can cope with his departure.