Texas financial company sues after negative comments on Web site

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Nov. 24, 2009, 8:53am

SHERMAN -- A Texas business that services non-performing loans has filed a lawsuit after comments on a complaints board referred to the company as not legitimate and engaged in questionable business practices.

Heritage Pacific Financial LLC, doing business as Heritage Pacific Financial, and Christopher Ganter filed suit against Shelton Investigations LLC and Elizabeth Arden on Nov. 23 in the Sherman Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

Heritage states that its business is largely dependent upon its "reputation, character, and integrity in order to establish business contacts and relations, solicit and secure new clients, retain current clients and to secure payment from borrowers on the loans/debts that Heritage owns or services."

In May, Heritage began doing business with Shelton Investigations, a private investigations firm. A couple months later, an undisclosed dispute arose between the two companies.

Heritage alleges that in August, Shelton through Elizabeth Arden's Web site, published statements implying that it being sued, should not be trusted and "was not a legitimate collection company, engaged in questionable business practices, misrepresented itself as a company doing business through the United States, is not incorporated nor organized as a corporation or limited liability company."

The plaintiff states that the statements are false and defamatory and were posted with willful and actual malice. According to the complaint, the statements have tarnished and injured Heritage's reputation, and exposed the company and its employees to "public hatred, contempt, ridicule, financial injury, and impeaches their honesty, integrity, virtue or reputation."

Heritage argues that the defendants are liable for defamation, libel, libel per se, business disparagement, and tortuous interference with existing contract and with prospective relations.

The plaintiff is seeking damages for lost past and future income or profits, injury to reputation, loss of employment and business opportunity, loss of business and attorneys' fees.

Heritage is asking the court to issue a preliminary injunction to force the defendants to stop publishing and remove the statements from the Web site.

General Counsel for the plaintiffs is Dallas attorney Lishel M. Bautista.

U.S. District Judge Richard A. Schell will preside over the litigation.

Case No 4:2009cv00580

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