Andrea Dearden Oct. 2, 2014, 11:05am

The owners of a Nederland organic and herbal store allege the owner of a similar company is slandering them. 

Alisha Ortego, individually and doing business as Down To Earth, and Vanlam Nguyen, individually and doing business as Down to Earth, filed a lawsuit Aug. 25 in Jefferson County District Court against Debra Peck, also known as Tina and Cindy and doing business as Herbal Insanity.  Ortego and Nguyen say they opened an herbal products store, Down to Earth, in Nederland in September 2011. Peck allegedly opened a similar business in July 2013, which she operates under the name Herbal Insanity, according to the complaint. 

In June, Ortego and Nguyen say they heard from a concerned customer that Peck allegedly was making slanderous comments about Down to Earth and its owners. According to the lawsuit, Peck was telling people Ortego and Nguyen "were not qualified to mix herbal teas", "had stolen every recipe from Peck's store", had "robbed Peck's store," "stolen her company logo of the herbal witch" and "poisoned some customers by mixing herbs that should never be mixed." 

Ortego and Nguyen contend they have heard from at least four customers about these statements allegedly made publicly by Peck. The business owners "vigorously dispute that they have ever engaged in illegal activity" or that "their products have ever caused bodily harm to a customer" or "that they have used the 'herbal witch' logo utilized, but not trademarked" by the defendant. They say they have asked Peck to cease and desist to no avail. 

Ortego and Nguyen accuse Peck of slander per se and tortious interference with business relations. They seek more than $200,000 for lost income, mental anguish and damages to reputation and character. They also request a temporary restraining order and injunction to prevent Peck from "knowingly and intentionally slandering [or libeling]" Ortego, Nguyen or their business.

Attorney E. Hart Green, with Weller, Green, Toups & Terrell in Beaumont, represents the plaintiffs. They request a jury trial. 

Jefferson County District Court case number: A196-049

This is a report on a civil lawsuit filed at Jefferson County District Court. The details in this report come from an original complaint filed by a plaintiff. Please note that a complaint represents an accusation by a private individual, not the government. It is not an indication of guilt and it represents only one side of the story.

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