MORGANTOWN - A judgment has been ordered in a defamation lawsuit against individuals who made false and defamatory statements to third parties about a Morgantown doctor.
Deeban Ganesan and Srinivas Teppala were ordered to pay Dr. Ian Rockett a total amount of $234,665 for their defamation.
Neither of the defendants appeared at the trial, which was held Feb. 4, despite being given notice at their last known address.
At the hearing, Rockett's counsel represented to the court that each of the multiple attempts to notify the defendants at their last known addresses were unsuccessful, as the envelopes were returned by the U.S. Postal Service to sender because the defendants had moved and left no forwarding addresses, according to the judgment order.
The court found that each of the defendants were directly and proximately liable to the plaintiff for damages.
"The court specifically finds that the defendants have defamed the plaintiff, that these defamatory statements were non-privileged communications to a third party, were false, that these statements made reference to the plaintiff and were at least negligent on the part of the defendants, resulting in injury to the plaintiff," the order states.
The court also found that the defendants knew such statements to be fabricated and false at the time that the statements were made, according to the order.
"The court finds that Dr. Rockett has suffered damages and that he has been humiliated, distressed and outraged," the order states.
Rockett shall have judgment against the defendants in the total of $234,665, being the sum total of emotional distress against Ganesan in the amount of $50,000 and punitive damages in the amount of $50,000; emotional distress against Teppala in the amount of $50,000 and punitive damages in the amount of $50,000; $31,500 in attorneys' fees; $2,165 in costs and expenses incurred by the plaintiff; and $1,000 for legal fees after Oct. 31, all together with pre- and post-judgment interest.
A partial dismissal order was filed in Sept. 9, after Rockett and former defendant Anoop Shankar "announced to the court that all matters of controversy against Shankar have been compromised and settled, pursuant to settlement negotiations."
The plaintiff and Shankar jointly moved the court for dismissal of the action, only as the action relates to Shankar, with prejudice.
On Aug. 24, 2012, and on other dates, Shankar, Deeban Ganesan and Srinivas Teppala made false and defamatory oral and written statements against Dr. Ian Rockett, according to a complaint filed Nov. 30, 2012, in Monongalia Circuit Court.
Rockett claimed the defamatory statements were non-privileged communications to a third party, were false, made references to him and were at least negligent on the part of the defendants, resulting in injury.
The defendants knew the statements were fabricated and false at the time they made them, according to the suit, and damaged Rockett’s reputation, character and integrity.
Rockett claimed he was humiliated, distressed and outraged by the false and defamatory statements.
The defendants agreed to fabricate, publish and corroborate the false and defamatory statements to third parties, according to the suit, and, as a result of the agreement and following through with the agreement, Rockett’s character and integrity have been called into question and placed into jeopardy.
Rockett claimed the defendants intentionally or recklessly inflected emotional distress upon him.
Rockett was represented by Bader C. Giggenbach.
The case had been assigned to Circuit Judge Phillip D. Gaujot.
Monongalia Circuit Court case number: 12-C-825