Town That Meddled With Local Business to Pay Up
(CN) - An Ohio appeals court upheld a $1.1 million verdict for a towing company that suffered after a mayor made good on his threat to "make sure your business goes to hell."
David and Jennifer Dolan said they received considerable business from the police department in Glouster, Ohio, when they were one of the town's two towing companies in 2001.
Business took a hit when more competition entered the market in 2002, but the Dolans said their relationship with the department soured when they towed and impounded the car of Ronald Chalfant Jr. after his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence in 2003.
The car owner's father, Ronald Chalfant Sr., complained about the supposed $150 cost of retrieving the car to Glouster's then mayor, David Angle.
Angle said he asked about the fee and that David Dolan allegedly admitted to charging extra because was Chalfant was an "asshole."
Disputing this story, the Dolans said they charged only $70, and did not apply any upward adjustments.
When their towing business from the city took a downturn, the Dolans sued the city of Glouster, Angle, Mayor Robert Funk and Police Chief Roger Taylor as well as Athens County government personnel, alleging tortious interference.
At trial, Chalfant Sr. called David Dolan "mouthy" and Police Officer Lucas Mase said Dolan had such a bad attitude that he could not stand to deal with him.
A jury ruled for the Dolans after a seven-day trial, ordering Angle and Mayor Funk to each pay the Dolans $265,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. Taylor meanwhile was ordered to pay $510,600 in compensatory damages and punitive damages.
The Chillicothe-based Fourth Appellate District affirmed the decision last month.
"David Dolan testified that when he refused to modify the charges in the Chalfant incident, Angle told him, 'I'll make sure your business goes to hell,'" the unsigned May 5 opinion states.
A sign advertising the Dolan's business was uprooted and later found in a city building, the three-justice panel found.
"We conclude that David Dolan's testimony concerning what Angle purportedly said to him, the removal of the business signn shortly thereafter and the uncontrovered evidence of a drop-off in the business is sufficient for a reasonable trier of fact to find intentional interference in the business relationship between the Dolans and Glouster," the justices wrote.