Judge rules that JM Eagle has cause to sue over press release

By Catherine Kavanaugh
Staff Reporter

Published: June 6, 2014 2:51 pm ET
Updated: June 6, 2014 2:54 pm ET

Related to this story

Topics Public Policy, United States, Construction, Municipal water & sewer, Pipe/Profile/Tubing
Companies & Associations J-M Manufacturing Co. Inc.

JM Eagle has a couple causes for legal action against a whistle blower’s law firm as a result of a November press release.

The firm put out the release after a federal jury decided that JM — North America’s largest manufacturer of PVC pipe — falsely represented uniform compliance with industry standards.

A case can be made that the press release mischaracterized the jury verdict and “there is a probability” JM will prevail on its claims of defamation and trade libel against the law firm of Phillips & Cohen, according to a tentative ruling adopted by Judge Elizabeth Allen White of the Los Angeles Superior Court.

The ruling points out several statements that are “reasonably susceptible of a defamatory interpretation” starting with the press release headline: “J-M faces billions in damages after jury finds J-M liable for making and selling faulty water system pipes.”

The ruling says, “A reasonable fact finder could conclude that this published statement implies a provably false accusation of fact because ... the jury found that JM made false representations of uniform compliance. The jury was not asked to find, and did not find, that JM’s water system pipes were faulty.”

In an emailed statement, Phillips & Cohen says, “We respectfully disagree with the ruling and plan to appeal it.”

JM Eagle attorneys contend in court documents that the whistle blower trial verdict simply means that it did not achieve absolute manufacturing perfection, which is why it and most businesses offer product warranties.

The ruling also singles out a press release statement that says the jury “decided that J-M Eagle management cared only about the amount of pipe J-M produced, not the quality of that pipe” as possible defamation because it “does not directly represent a finding by the jury.”

The ruling denied Phillips & Cohen’s motion to strike JM Eagle’s defamation and trade libel lawsuit as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP). The law firm represents a fired employee who worked for the pipe maker when it did business as J-M Manufacturing Co. The whistle blower, John Hendrix, questioned the quality of pipe made from 1996-2006 and sold to dozens of cities, states and water districts across the country.

JM’s lawsuit says the widely publicized press release about the jury verdict hurt its reputation and sales and it is seeking damages at trial.

Phillips & Cohen contends the press release at issue gave a “true and fair report” of on-going litigation and that JM’s lawsuit was filed to harass the law firm.

The litigation is on-going because the whistle blower trial is only half over with monetary damages to be decided in a second phase.

In the meantime, JM Eagle has asked the trial judge to set aside the jury verdict or grant a new trial, partly on the grounds of insufficient and irrelevant evidence.

In addition, JM Eagle has another lawsuit pending against the whistle blower and his attorneys in New Jersey for theft of confidential documents.


Comments

Judge rules that JM Eagle has cause to sue over press release

By Catherine Kavanaugh
Staff Reporter

Published: June 6, 2014 2:51 pm ET
Updated: June 6, 2014 2:54 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Plastics industry blasted for stance in green building debate

July 22, 2014 2:45 pm ET

The plastics industry has taken high-profile stance in the debate over green building standards. The result, today at least, is that it's getting...    More

Image

Munson Machinery expanding assembly, testing operations

July 22, 2014 2:02 pm ET

Munson Machinery Co. Inc. is expanding its headquarters factory by about one-third in Utica, N.Y., where the company makes mixing, blending and size-...    More

Image

Evolving with the times helps Ohio's Midwest Elastomers prosper

July 22, 2014 12:53 pm ET

Midwest Elastomers Inc. is 35 years old this year, and if the company hadn't abandoned its roots and evolved, it long ago could have gone the way of...    More

Image

DSM planning North American nylon plant

July 22, 2014 11:41 am ET

Materials firm Royal DSM NV plans to build a new nylon resin plant in North America, but no decision has been made on the plant's exact location.    More

Image

Illinois injection molder expands

July 21, 2014 1:23 pm ET

Automotive supplier All-Rite Industries Inc. has added two new injection molding machines to its operations.    More

Market Reports

Injection Molders Market Report & Ranking 2014

This special package contains our 132-page 2014 Market Report on the Injection Molding segment and our exclusive 2014 RANKINGS database of 500+ Injection Molders for a discounted package price.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Market Review & Outlook 2014

This special report from Plastics News examines the North American plastics recycling industry and provides insight into indicators that impact market viability, including Resin pricing trends for virgin and recycled market material and historical Resin production trends for post- consumer and industrial waste.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events