Ex-Coach Wins Libel Award Against Wacko Parent

Jul 31, 2009

A state court judge in Connecticut has sided with a former high school swim team coach, who claimed a parent libeled her when she accused her of being a pedophile among other things.
The impetus for the lawsuit may have been twofold; the fact that the school district did not pay for a single-sport banquet and that the coach, Mary Anne Bojko, had a confidentiality policy with the players in which they were not to discuss what was said in the locker room.
In response to these developments, parent Laurie A. Limawrote an email to the school principal, Matthew Ryan, is which she questioned the policies and, specifically, charged that the confidentiality policy was “one step away from a pedifile [sic].”
The latter accusation took on a life of its own when the defendant, upset that she did not get a response from Ryan, published the e-mail “’all over the world,’ to the plaintiffs’ fellow teachers and administrators, politicians, including the Mayor of East Hartford, the Attorney General, the Governor of Connecticut and even to students.”
The court wrote that the defendant went on to stage “an absolutely unbelievable e-mail campaign against the plaintiff in which she claimed that the plaintiff had ‘abused’ her daughter, repeatedly used the term ‘pedophile,’ demanded that the plaintiff be fired from her coaching position, alleged that the plaintiff was ‘dangerous’ to children, demanded a background check on the plaintiff, demanded an investigation by the State Board of Education and an investigation by the Department of Children and Families.
“The defendant’s character assassination of the plaintiff was extended to anyone either directly or remotely connected with the plaintiff. This compounded the plaintiff’s embarrassment and emotional distress.
“The plaintiff hired an attorney, Christopher Stone, to represent her. Mr. Stone demanded a retraction from the defendant. Notwithstanding that the defendant admitted that she had no basis for her claim that the plaintiff was a pedophile, the defendant refused to publish any retraction. Instead, she sent more e-mails in which she linked the plaintiff and the term ‘pedophile.’”
Finally, Bojko sued, seeking money damages, punitive damages and injunctive relief against the defendant for libel, libel per se, intentional infliction of emotional distress, tortious interference with business relationship, invasion of privacy and vexatious suit.
The court found “absolutely no evidence that the plaintiff abused the defendant’s children or any other child. Furthermore, there was no evidence that the plaintiff engaged in any improper conduct whatsoever. All the negative allegations in the e-mails were prompted by the defendant’s predilection to ‘lie for the hell of it.’ These e-mails were sent for the sole purpose of inflicting emotional distress and harm to the plaintiff professionally and personally. Laurie Lima’s e-mail attacks on Mary Anne Bojko were singularly malicious, outrageous and evil.”
The court went on to award the plaintiff $22,874 for her economic damages. That amount is comprised of her loss of coaching income and her therapist bills. The court further awarded the plaintiff damages of $25,000 for the emotional distress caused by the defendant’s conduct.
“Punitive damages are awarded when the evidence shows a reckless indifference to the rights of others or an intentional and wanton violation of those rights,” wrote the court, citing Vandersluis v. Weil, 176 Conn. 353, 358, 407 A.2d 982 (1978). “The defendant clearly acted with malice and with an intent to harm the plaintiff. She was aware that her allegations against the plaintiff were untrue, yet she continued to make them even after being asked to stop and having actual knowledge that the false allegations were distressing the plaintiff. Moreover, the defendant admittedly enjoyed the fact that the false allegations caused distress to the plaintiff. Punitive damages are generally limited to attorneys fees. See Bhatia v. Debek, 287 Conn. 397, 420, 948 A.2d 1009 (2008). In this case the court finds that the plaintiff’s reasonable attorney’s fees are $33,000 and awards that amount as punitive damages.”
Bojko v. Lima; Super. Ct. Conn.; No. PJRCV075015527S.,
A.2d, 2009 WL 1623280 Conn.Super.,2009; 5/12/09
Attorneys of Record: (for plaintiff) Chadwick & Stone LLP, East Hartford


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