$10M defamation suit dropped by homeowners' association president

Marilyn Tennissen Oct. 7, 2013, 1:02pm

The president of a Galveston homeowners’ association has withdrawn a $10 million suit he had filed against a resident for allegedly making false statements.

According to an email received by the Record, Ron Benotti, president of Seascape Owners Association, dropped a defamation suit against Richard Collier. 

As previously reported, Benotti sued Collier in November 2012 alleging Collier wrongfully labeled Benotti as “arrogant,” “incompetent,” “dishonest,” “unethical” and “harassing.”

Things the defendant said included that the plaintiff mishandled a beach nourishment dune restoration project, acted unethically and illegally with no regard to the association’s bylaws or state laws and engaged in character assassination and a “personal vendetta” against him, according to the original petition.

Benotti points out that in the emails Collier “negligently or maliciously” stated the plaintiff committed election fraud; spied on Collier and his family, friends and business associates; and blamed the respondent for lying and financially misleading the homeowners association.

Meanwhile, Collier fired back with an original answer submitted earlier this year, calling Benotti’s suit “frivolous.”

A pretrial conference was scheduled for Oct. 28, but according to the email from Collier, the suit was “dropped at the last minute before pretrial by plaintiff Benotti.”

Collier stated the case was “just another example of SLAPP suits by some bully trying to use the court system to intimidate someone.”

SLAPPs, or strategic lawsuits against public participation, are lawsuits brought in retaliation for someone exercising his or her freedom of speech. The plaintiff’s goal is not necessarily to win the lawsuit, but to intimidate and silence critics.

Collier was represented by Albert Lee Giddens of Giddens & Burns in Pasadena.

Case No. 12-cv-2972

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