Phillips & Cohen LLP, the law firm accused of defamation and trade libel by JM Eagle, has hired an outside legal team, which has filed a motion in a California state court seeking to strike the PVC pipe maker's lawsuit.
The 20-page motion dated March 26 says references to the company's products as “substandard” and “faulty” in a November 2013 news release gave a “true and fair report” of on-going litigation of national importance and are protected by California civil code.
The news release was widely publicized after Phillips & Cohen prevailed in the first part of a whistleblower trial in which a federal jury heard arguments about the quality of pipes purchased by state and local governments from 1996-2006.
JM contends the jury determined it had not achieved absolute manufacturing perfection but it did not establish that JM sold defective pipe to any customers. The offending press release was published with reckless disregard for the truth, according to JM.
However, Phillips & Cohen's defense attorney, Richard Kendall, says in his motion, “The statements at issue are non-actionable statements of opinion,” and the court should strike JM's complaint.
The motion also says JM, formerly called J-M Manufacturing Co., is using the case to harass Phillips & Cohen and it constitutes a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP).
Kendall is with the law firm Kendall Brill & Klieger LLP.