Jury rules in favor of Kanawha board in defamation lawsuit

By Kyla Asbury | Sep 5, 2017

CHARLESTON – A jury ruled in favor of Kanawha County Board of Education and the principal of George Washington High School in a lawsuit filed by a former counselor who alleged she was defamed.

The six-person jury determined on Sept. 1 that Mary K. Eller did not suffer damages to her reputation or privacy in a series of incidents that occurred after a sexual assault of a student that she did not report to law enforcement.

The jury deliberated less than an hour and determined the principal, George Aulenbacher, sent an e-mail in March 2015 regarding Eller’s job performance to faculty and staff at the school. The information sent in Aulenbacher’s e-mail was true, which meant it did not met the standard of being defamatory. The jury decided that Aulenbacher was not being reckless or sharing any information about Eller that he knew to be false.

The trial lasted four days.

In her lawsuit, Eller claimed that Aulenbacher wanted her to retire beginning in 2010, when he became principal at George Washington.

Eller filed her lawsuit in August 2015 in Kanawha Circuit Court. She alleged that since 1965, except for nine years she was raising her own children, she had worked for the school board and that she had been at George Washington the last 30 years.

In February 2015, Eller claimed she was wrongfully suspended, but was able to return the next month. The reason for her suspension was unclear.

Eller claimed the school board and Aulenbacher defamed her and injured her professional reputation by saying she hurt the chances of 11 students from graduating.

She was seeking compensatory damages, special damages and punitive damages. She was represented by James M. Cagle.

The defendants were represented by Lou Ann Cyrus.

The case was assigned to Circuit Judge Joann Tabit.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 15-C-1544

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