GALVESTON - The defendant in a local dojo's defamation lawsuit recently filed his original answer.

Davis Graham offered a formal rebuttal Oct. 2 to former employers Zuhair Hillail and Sara Stolle's accusations that he made false statements about them to undermine their martial arts studio business.

Hillail and Stolle, who own and operate Tigers Den Dojo, claim in court papers filed in August that Graham defamed them and their company after leaving his management position with Tigers Den last October.

Hillail alleges Graham lied to clients when he told them the FBI was investigating Hillail for molesting a child during a camping trip. Stolle claims Graham also lied about her when he "told more than one person that (she) has had at least three abortions and threw the aborted fetuses into a garbage dumpster."

Both plaintiffs insist Graham's remarks were intended "to cause (Stolle), Hillail and Tigers Den entities economic and personal harm."

They claim that some clients canceled their memberships because of the rumors.

In his three-page response, Graham claims "the plaintiffs' own acts or admissions caused or contributed to their alleged injuries."

"The defendant asserts that the plaintiffs' are 'libel-proof' because they have no reputation to lose," the document states.

Graham adds "the alleged defamatory statements are protected by qualified privilege" while any trade secrets he may have allegedly stumbled upon were found "through independent development, independent discovery or reverse engineering without breaching a legal duty or using an improper means."

According to the respondent, his former bosses have "unclean hands."

Attorney Robert E. Booth with Mills Shirley LLP in Galveston is representing Graham.

Cause No. 68,099

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