Gillen seeks dismissal of Salard suit
The defendant in a slander lawsuit in Wrangell’s First District Court has replied to an amended complaint from the attorney of Dr. Greg Salard – and asked the court to dismiss the case.
Lisa Gillen, a long-time Wrangell resident whom Salard is suing, filed an answer on Aug. 2 to allegations that she defamed the physician on Facebook in late June. The alleged slander occurred, according to a filing by Salard attorney Michael Nash, when Gillen engaged in an online chat with a fellow Wrangellite, Jasmine Clyburn.
In the alleged chat session, which is provided as an attachment to the physician’s amended complaint, Gillen reportedly asked Clyburn to spread information about Salard’s loss of privileging at Wrangell Medical Center – and the custody status of three of his children.
The complaint filed by Salard alleges that Gillen’s actions have harmed his ability to practice medicine in the borough, with both current and possible future patients.
“Ms. Gillen has interfered with the relationship between Dr. Salard and one or more of his patients,” Nash said in an interview in July. “She has done so by sending false information via the Internet.”
Gillen’s answer to the lawsuit reiterates her stand that the chat session was held privately between two people, and therefore protected against the elements of a slander charge.
Nash, for his part, refutes that defense.
“In her conversation with Jasmine, she says, paraphrasing, to tell everyone,” Nash said. “Now, wouldn’t you think once you tell somebody to make it public, you can no longer hide behind the claim it’s a private communication? There is no provision for private communication in the elements of slander, either.”
“This conversation was never made public by me and was never meant for anyone to see except Jasmine,” Gillen’s filing states. “(Jasmine) decided to make the conversation public.”
Gillen also alleges that on June 29 she received a hand-delivered letter from Nash, via Ryan Wenzel.
“In the letter Nash states he has seen my private conversations to Jasmine and has shown them to the Salards,” she stated. “In the letter, Nash also states that if I do not send them letters of apology, and admit to everyone I talked to that these statements were false within 10 days, the Salards will be suing me.”
In a July interview, Wenzel said Clyburn provided information to him about the chats on the social network– and that he then gave that information to the Salards and Nash.
“I was contacted by Jasmine, who told me that Lisa had been giving her some information that Greg Salard had committed some sex offenses against his children,” Wenzel said. “Gillen also told her, Jasmine, that she should not be going to him as a doctor.”
Gillen also asked the court to dismiss the case, calling it a “frivolous and ridiculous” lawsuit.
“(Salard) makes no accusation against (Gillen) under Alaska Statute or any other Borough or City code or regulation,” her Motion to Dismiss states. “Further, the burden of proof in a defamation case, under common law, is high and the Plaintiff must prove that Defendant made a defamatory statement, published it to a third party, and knew or should have known the statement was false.”
In her filing seeking the dismissal, Gillen says she believed her statements to be true.
“In this case, (Gillen) based her statements upon knowledge of prior, public-record legal matters involving the Plaintiff, and since the communications alleged to be “slanderous” were solely between the (Gillen) and Jasmine Clyburn, it cannot be seen as an act meant to defame the Plaintiff in the larger community of Wrangell,” she stated.
Gillen also alleges that, since Dr. Salard is a public figure, the burden of proof in an Alaskan defamation case is higher than for other types of cases.
“Further, in cases that involve public figures, such as Plaintiff Greg Salard, who is a physician in the community and has been the focus of a number of news stories in local media, or matters of public concern, constitutional considerations prevent the award of presumed damages unless the Plaintiff proves fault or malice,” she stated. “In public figure/public concern cases, Alaska law requires proof of actual malice. The Defendant asserts no actual malice exists and that her reasons for making statements to Clyburn were solely out of concern for the safety of the residents of Wrangell.”
A scheduling conference hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 15 at 10:30 a.m. before District Judge Kevin Miller.