Berryville resident, Kenneth D. Liggins, has filed a $30 million lawsuit against a local newspaper and two of its reporters charging the newspaper acted recklessly in its reporting of a 2008 Clarke County School Board meeting in which Liggins was ordered to stop speaking by School Board Chairman, Robina Bouffault during a public comment period.
At issue, according to Liggins, are multiple reports carried in the Winchester Star that Liggins had been escorted from the school board meeting by a county deputy, a statement that Liggins says is false.
“Neither Nadler or Tayloe were even at the meeting as far as I know,” Liggins said. “As far as I know the only media at the meeting was Winchester TV3.”
Danielle Nadler and Monty Tayloe are reporters for the Winchester Star newspaper in Winchester, Virginia. A third reporter, Drew Houff, is no longer employed by the Winchester Star and is not mentioned in the lawsuit.
In his lawsuit, Liggins says that as professional news reporters, Nadler and Tayloe both knew that publishing false and misleading information has a natural tendency to injure a man’s reputation, either generally or with respect to his occupation, but that the Winchester Star continued and repeated publishing the false statement.
Liggins denies that he was led out the school board meeting by a county sheriff’s deputy and claims that he has 150 witnesses that will back up his assertion.
“It never happened,” Liggins says.
As evidence for his lawsuit, Liggins cites several stories published by the Winchester Star over a period of several months.
On October 2, 2009, then-reporter Drew Houff wrote, “Deputies subsequently removed Liggins from the meeting.” Houff’s statement was later repeated by reporter Monty Tayloe; “Eventually, the board summoned a county deputy, who removed Liggins from the meeting.” Tayloe wrote on October 16, 2009 and again on December 3, 2009
Reporter Danielle Nadler repeated the allegation on February 2, 2010 writing, “Eventually the board summoned a county deputy who removed Liggins from the meeting.”
Liggins says that the newspaper caused the harm to his reputation each time the allegations were repeated. Liggins also claims that because the information was published on the Winchester Star’s website, the persistent nature of Internet information makes it virtually impossible for him to ever correct what he says are false and malicious statements.
Liggins says that he is particularly angry that no effort was made to get the facts right before the information about him was published.
“Nadler and Tayloe wrote that I was escorted out of the meeting by sheriff deputies when they didn’t even attend the meeting and made no effort to get the correct information,” Liggins said. “If you’re going to be reporters then you need to do your due diligence before printing something.”
Liggins said that he is asking the Winchester District Court in Winchester, Virginia for $12.5 million in compensatory damages and $17.5 million in punitive damages. Liggins said that he expects an initial hearing on the lawsuit in approximately 30 days.
Reached by phone this afternnon, Winchester Star managing editor Maria Hileman said that the paper had no comment on the lawsuit by Kenneth Liggins. When asked if the newspaper had printed any retractions related to the articles cites in Liggins claim Hileman repeated, “No comment.”