The Iowa Court of Appeals recently have upheld an $11 million penalty in libel case. The case centered around an Iowan who relentlessly posted disparaging comments on Facebook about his former boss.
Former employee vs. former boss
The court first ordered Iowa businessman Scott Clark to pay the libel penalty after he repeatedly went after his former boss Jerry Hoffman, CEO of DIY Autotune, in multiple Facebook posts. He also denigrated DIY Autotune’s tuning products for racing enthusiasts in multiple posts. Clark even admitted in court to having a compulsion to post negative things about his former boss and DIY Autotune.
Hoffman, represented by Stuart Tinley Law Firm, sued his former employee in 2017 for:
- Violating a noncompete agreement
- Using trade secrets and confidential information from DIY Autotune to launch his own business
- Libeling him and DIY Autotune in multiple Facebook posts
DIY Autotune fired Clark in 2016 and he started his own company shortly after that.
Online comments continue despite rulings
When the first lawsuit was pending, Clark and Hoffman agreed to not post any disparaging comments about each other online to limit what would be litigated. However, only days later, Hoffman accused Clark of making defamatory statements on Facebook about him and on a podcast. The court agreed with Hoffman’s claim.
Then after the court ruling, only 48 hours later, Clark again posted disparaging remarks about Hoffman. After that, the Iowa court forced Clark to establish a bank account with $10,000 in it to cover for any future violations of his agreement with Hoffman. Yet, Clark failed to deposit any money in such account and continued posting inflammatory comments about his former boss online.
He also posted comments under an alias and complained about how linked lawyers and judges were. After that, a judge reprimanded him again and ruled he couldn’t post such comments online. Yet, Clark continued to post negative comments about Hoffman and DIY Autotune. As a result, the Iowa Court of Appeals held up the $11 million libel penalty and held Clark in contempt of court and sentenced him to 60 days in jail.
Clark was found guilty of libel because his statements about his former boss hurt his boss’ reputation and impacted Hoffman’s business’ reputation.