Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sun Valley defamation suit dismissed in court

Complaint can be filed again if it is shortened

Express Staff Writer

    A defamation lawsuit filed by former Sun Valley City Administrator Sharon Hammer against a current and a former city official has been dismissed on the grounds that its 176-page complaint is too long. The suit can be refiled in court with a shorter complaint.
    The suit was filed by Hammer’s attorney and husband, Jim Donoval, on March 5 in 4th District Court in Ada County against former city Treasurer Michelle Frostenson and Acting Assistant Fire Chief Mallam Prior. It includes a total of 36 counts of defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and fraud, related to statements made about Hammer’s alleged misuse of city funds.
    The case was transferred to 5th District Court in Blaine County on May 5.
    Citing an Idaho rule of civil procedure requiring that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim,” defense attorney Kirtlan Naylor stated in a memorandum filed in support of his motion to dismiss that
“[i]n this case, Plaintiff’s Complaint sets forth its claims in an incredibly long, unusually burdensome and onerous manner. … It is unreasonable to expect Defendants to spend the time, energy and resources responding to Plaintiff’s improper Complaint.”
    Fifth District Judge Robert Elgee granted the motion following a hearing July 8.
    In an interview, Donoval said he intends to file a shorter, amended complaint. However, he said he will first seek to appeal a ruling by Elgee on a motion asking that Naylor be disqualified from the case. Donoval contended in court that Naylor has a conflict of interest due to his having represented the city’s insurance company when it settled tort claims filed against the city by Frostenson and former City Clerk Kelly Ek. The two women claimed they had been retaliated against by Hammer and former Mayor Wayne Willich for reporting allegedly improper activities on the part of Hammer.
    However, Elgee ruled that Naylor and Hammer did not have an attorney-client relationship.
    “It will be an issue that I think the Supreme Court will be interested in,” Donoval said.
    In a memorandum in support of his motion to have Naylor disqualified, Donoval stated that Hammer intends to file a malpractice suit against Naylor for settling Frostenson’s and Ek’s tort claims without consulting Hammer.
    The defamation case is one of nine filed by Donoval and/or Hammer in relation to events at the city of Sun Valley between 2008 and 2011. Hammer was fired from her job in January 2012 and is seeking court action to be reinstated.
    In one of those cases, Judge Jonathan Brody ruled on July 2 that City Councilman Nils Ribi had no right to a court order that Donoval submit to a psychiatric exam. Ribi had requested the order in his response to a counterclaim for defamation filed against him by Donoval.

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