Sherwin-Williams wants defamation case dismissed

By Kelly Holleran | Aug 31, 2009

BECKLEY – Sherwin-Williams has asked the federal court to dismiss a case against it in which a Greenbrier County man claims a store employee made defamatory remarks against him.

John Mathena originally filed a complaint May 20 in Greenbrier Circuit Court against Sherwin-Williams, but the store later removed the complaint to federal court.

In his complaint, Mathena claims he has an open account with Sherwin-Williams, where he buys supplies for his painting business.

According to the complaint, two of Mathena's employees attempted to buy painting supplies and materials on Mathena's open account at the store on April 6. However, they were turned away by employee Kevin Tuckwiller, who called Mathena a "crook," "thief," and "cheat," the suit states.

In addition, Tuckwiller told the two owners of the Sherwin-Williams store in Covington, Va., identified in the suit only as Debbie and Jason, that they should discontinue any business relations with Mathena because of his crooked ways, the complaint says.

Again, on April 11, Tuckwiller made defamatory remarks about Mathena to operators of the Covington Sherwin-Williams store, Mathena claims.

Mathena's call to Sherwin-Williams corporate representatives on April 14 still did not prevent Tuckwiller from continuing to make slanderous statements, according to the complaint.

"Defendant's conduct was malicious and therefore, Plaintiff is entitled to recover actual damages as well as punitive damages to be determined by a jury to ensure Mr. Tuckwiller's conduct does not occur again in the future and Defendant does not condone Mr. Tuckwiller's conduct," Mathena's suit states.

Sherwin-Williams denies Mathena's allegations against it and contends Mathena does not even have an open account with the store.

"If John Mathena has utilized a credit line with the Sherwin-Williams for the purchase of paint and painting supplies in the past, such credit line was held in the name of another person or entity," the store wrote in its answer to Mathena's complaint.

Sherwin-Williams says the case against it should be dismissed.

"Plaintiff has suffered no harm as a result of the statements at issue," the store wrote. "Plaintiff's reputation was not injured as a result of the statements at issue."

In addition to its request for the case be dismissed, Sherwin-Williams is seeking costs, attorney's fees and other relief the court deems just.

In his complaint, Mathena is seeking actual damages of $25,000, plus unspecified punitive damages.

Sherwin-Williams removed the case to federal district, where it says the complaint belongs because Mathena is a resident of West Virginia and the store is an Ohio corporation. Therefore, a diversity of citizenship exists. In addition, Mathena is seeking more than $75,000.
Jeffrey S. Rodgers of Lewisburg will be representing Mathena.

Eric E. Kinder of Spilman, Thomas and Battle in Charleston will be representing Sherwin-Williams.

U.S. District Court case number: 5:09-CV-688

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