Man Entitled to Damages After Dispute with Ex

     (CN) – A Louisiana man whose crumbling relationship with his ex-wife led to threats, intimidation, and even shots fired at the home he shared with his new wife and children, is entitled to damages for defamation and emotional distress, a state appeals court ruled on May 6.
     John Dietz married Anne Bennett Morrison Dietz in 1990. After the couple had two children, they moved to Mexico. The couple bought a house in 2001, but got divorced later that year.
     Anne initially allowed the children to live with John and his new wife, Iniana, but the couple stopped cooperating due to a dispute over the home they had purchased.
     John testified that after Anne hired Mexican attorney Ignacio Reyes Retana, he began receiving threats that he would be jailed on trumped-up charges.
     John also said he fled with his wife and children to Louisiana after one of Reyes Retana’s associates told him there would be serious consequences if he didn’t give Anne a large amount of money and ownership of the property.
     Anne came to Louisiana and took the children back to Mexico in violation of a court order. She was arrested, and she and the children were returned to Louisiana.
     John moved back to Mexico, but he received an anonymous threat urging him to pay Anne and drop all legal action against her.
     Eight days later, John said a passing truck fired three shots that hit his vehicle. He and his family fled to Texas.
     Anne was convicted in a Mexican court of domestic violence against her two sons. She was ordered to spend a year in jail.
     Her brother, Richard Morrison, threatened John with the possibility of professional complaints with the bar associations of Colorado, New Mexico and the Navajo Nation, where John was licensed to practice law.
     In addition, Morrison emailed John’s father, stating that his son was an “international fugitive” whose law practice “is now in jeopardy and he is facing some pretty serious consequences in Mexico.”
     Morrison sent another email complaining that John’s mother had been rude to him.
     “I would think that she would be eager to do everything possible to maintain a positive relationship with Anne and me, not only for John’s sake, but your own future relationship with your grandchildren,” Morrison wrote.
     John sued Morrison and Anne for defamation and emotional distress. He presented emails from Anne to her brother in support of his campaign against him.
     “Great job, Richie POO,” she wrote.
     In a separate email, Anne told her brother “I almost think you are having fun.”
     The trial court ruled that Anne and Morrison had defamed, extorted and inflicted emotional distress on John, who received $85,000 in damages.
     Morrison appealed, arguing that he relied on his sister’s version of events when he sent the emails. However, the Lake Charles-based Third Circuit Louisiana Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision in a ruling written by Judge Jimmie C. Peters.
     “Not only did he not make any effort to check the validity of his accusations, but his general demeanor while testifying indicated that accuracy was not necessarily important to him as long as Mr. Dietz complied with his demands,” Peters wrote on behalf of the court’s three-judge panel.
     The judge also upheld John’s emotional-distress claim.
     “In his testimony, Mr. Morrison professed not to wish any distress on anyone except Mr. Dietz,” Peters wrote. “With regard to Mr. Dietz, he expressed no regrets, could care less what damages Mr. Dietz sustained, and asserted that emotional distress was not part of the equation in collecting from a ‘deadbeat.'”
     Judge Marc Amy wrote a brief concurring opinion, referencing the state law’s “broad dictate that ‘every act whatever of man that causes damage to another obliges him by whose fault it happened to repair it.”

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