Defamation Verdict $17,657,420.00
In 2013, Christopher J. Perry, Esq. and I were blessed to have the fortunate opportunity to be introduced to Ron Nemetchek and Maria Origoni. They had a defamation lawsuit in progress, but their first attorney passed away right before trial was set to begin. After being turned away by several lawyers, they were referred to me. As soon as I heard their story, I knew they had a great case and that they would ultimately be vindicated if the case didn't settle. I also immediately called up my colleague Chris, as he and I often try cases together, to get on the case with me. This one was no different.
To make a long story somewhat short, Ron had been a successful guider and outfitter in Alberta, Canada for more than 30 years. During the 8 years prior to 2011, he met Maria and the 2 quickly became partners in the business and in marriage. Their business was so successful they had clients booked years in advance and had to turn some away. Needless to say, the phones were always ringing and they never had to hunt (pun intended) for clients.
Around 2010, they decided to expand their business and buy additional assets to expand their repertoire into another species and territory. Unbeknownst to them, however, the person they were buying the assets from wasn't completely upfront about his business dealings. As such, a client of the seller became disgruntled and demanded his $13,000 deposit back. Although he had not paid Ron and Maria and the seller had not transferred the client's money to them, the disgruntled client demanded for Ron and Maria to pay it back anyway. Ron and Maria told him they'd help him get his money back from the person he paid, but since they didn't have his money, they couldn't pay him any money. That's not what he wanted to hear though.
Instead of waiting for Ron and Maria to try to work on getting him his money from the seller, he quickly grew impatient and threatened my clients that he'd ruin their business by telling everyone in the industry that Ron and Maria stole his money. He threatened that he'd go to their trade shows and spread the same lies if he didn't get his money back immediately.
And that he eventually did. He even made six websites with the same post that Ron and Maria had stolen his money, that there were other "plaintiffs" with lawsuits pending against them, that no one should book with them and that Ron was being investigated by the Canadian Mounted Police for stealing money. All of which was not true.
He kept this smear campaign up from 2011 through 2016. The results were devastating to Ron and Maria's business. In one short year, their bookings went from being overbooked to begging friends to book with them to help fill spots. The new assets they purchased in a territory that should sell itself would not take off due to the lies being spread. As a result of losing so many customers in a short span, they started to sell off much needed business equipment that was used to run the business just to pay the bills and keep the lights on. The stress was weighing on the family, they almost lost their home, and it was becoming emotionally difficult to bear. In fact, right before trial, they had 2 pieces of equipment left that if they had sold them, they may as well just shut the whole operation down and let the house go.
After four or so years of hotly contested litigation, in which we had to file a writ for Ron and Maria to be afforded a jury trial (the Second District Court of Appeal agreed with us), they finally got their day in court in March 2016. We flew witnesses from all over the United States and Canada in support of our clients' case. The defendants did, also. Two weeks of trial went by so fast with both sides closing and the jury beginning their deliberation. Soon after, the first jury question came to the court and we were all called back to the judge's chambers. Judge Oki said the jury's question is, "How do we calculate damages?" As you can imagine, I had to contain my excitement at hearing those words because I knew at that moment Ron and Maria had won their case. When the jury finished deliberating, the court read into the record the damages award the jury found for each plaintiff, as follows: Ron Nemetchek $5,500,000; Maria Origoni $4,500,000; North River Outfitting Ltd. $3,828,710; and North River Stone Outfitters Ltd. $3,828,710. The total added up to more than $17.6 million, and because we had served a Code of Civil Procedure section 998 demand on defendants, prejudgment interest of 10% per annum and costs had been awarded.
I have to say, representing Ron and Maria was very special to me for numerous reasons. They were a blended family that desperately needed help due to the wrongful and intentional actions of another. Throughout the litigation I got to know the whole family, including their 3 kids, 2 of which were able to make it to support their parents during trial. Although they were from Canada and they were not US citizens, their plight still mattered to me and to the jury. It was another case that Chris, my good friend and fraternity brother, and I got to work on together and got a justified result. Finally, we were all truly in it together. I also have to mention another good friend of mine that showed up to support us during trial and helped with witness preparation - Paul Nathan, Esq. Thank you. I'd also like to give a big thanks to some others that helped, including Joshua Karton, Milton C. Grimes, Esq., and John Kawai, Esq. They offered valuable input during our focus groups and other trial preparation.
Presently, Ron, Maria and their family are doing much better nowadays after they have had time to heal, move on and rebuild after the verdict. Everyone is now safely back on their feet thanks to the jury's verdict. The jury - the great equalizer. Thank you! To Ron and Maria, and their kids - Miguela, Gaetano and Santino - if you're reading this I wish you all the best and look forward to staying in touch.
Case Title: Nemetchek, et al. v. Sissoyev, et al., Los Angeles Superior Court, Case No. KC064066