Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hearing set in defamation suit

Sun Valley is no longer a defendant, but litigants still battle in court


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

The lawsuit filed by former Sun Valley City Administrator Sharon Hammer against the city and three other defendants for alleged harassment has been dismissed, but a related matter is making its way through the courts.

A hearing has been set for March 7 in 5th District Court at which Hammer's attorney and husband, Jim Donoval, will ask a judge to dismiss two claims against him in a defamation suit.

Sun Valley City Councilman Nils Ribi, a defendant in Hammer's original suit, sued Donoval late last year, alleging that he made statements that defamed him in correspondence leading up to the filing of Hammer's suit in November.

Ribi claims that letters that Donoval sent to the mayor, City Council members and council members-elect included defamatory statements about Ribi's mental and emotional health and alleged misconduct in his capacity as a councilman.

In the upcoming hearing, Donoval will seek summary judgment on two counts of Ribi's complaint.

" ... Mr. Donoval, who is an attorney, possessed absolute immunity from a defamation action in submitting pre-litigation correspondences to prospective defendants, contrary to the assertions of Plaintiff Nils Ribi in the Complaint. ..." states Donoval's motion for summary judgement, filed Jan. 17.

The motion also states that as a councilman, Ribi is a public figure, "and thus any defamation claims of Mr. Ribi must adequately plead that Mr. Donoval meant actual malice to Mr. Ribi in issuing any purported defamatory statements."

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Donoval also asserts that the letters in question were marked "strictly confidential," signifying his intent that they not be publicly disclosed.

Ribi and his wife, Patricia Brolin-Ribi, are seeking a jury trial and permanent injunction to keep Donoval from making false statements about them, according to the complaint for damages, filed Dec. 30.

Donoval later filed a counterclaim to that suit against Ribi and his attorney, Keith Roark. In the claims, he contends that they defamed him and intentionally caused him emotional distress.

Hearing set on insurance

A hearing has been set for Feb. 21 for another, related suit, in which Sharon Hammer is seeking a declaratory judgment about Sun Valley's insurance policy with the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program. ICRMP is a risk pool that underwrites insurance policies for Idaho government entities, including Sun Valley. ICRMP appointed Boise attorney Kirtlan Naylor to represent the city and three other defendants in a suit filed by Hammer regarding alleged harassment of her as an employee. Hammer maintains that ICRMP's policy excludes claims relating to harassment, employment or disciplinary action, so ICRMP should not have represented the defendants. She also contends ICRMP should have provided her with legal counsel. ICRMP is asking the court for summary judgment.

Review details of the case

To read previous articles about the defamation suit and counterclaims, log on to www.mtexpress.com and type "Donoval Ribi defamation" in the search field on the left-hand side of the page.




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