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State high court to hear Simon defamation suit

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A defamation lawsuit filed by Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon and his wife against a Beverly Hills attorney has reached the Indiana Supreme Court.

The state’s high court has agreed to hear oral arguments Oct. 24 in the Simons’ dispute with lawyer Joseph A. Davis following a ruling at the appellate court level that went against the couple.

The lawsuit stems from comments Davis made to Indianapolis television station WTHR-TV Channel 13 regarding a lawsuit filed by a former nanny of the Simons, whom Davis represented.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge in September 2011 tossed the lawsuit filed by the nanny, who claimed the Simons fired her because she became pregnant.

Meanwhile, the Simons had sued in Marion County for defamation based on statements Davis made to WTHR that “the firing is because my client refused to engage in an unlawful, meaning a criminal, act pursuant to our immigration laws. This was all designed to conceal from local and state authorities the existence of this undocumented worker.”

Davis moved to dismiss the Simons’ suit for lack of jurisdiction because he resides in California, but Judge Heather Welch denied the motion in October 2010.

Davis appealed and, in a split decision in February this year, two appellate judges reversed and ruled in his favor.

“Regardless of whether Davis returned the WTHR reporter’s phone call or not, we conclude that this inquiry is immaterial because the record unequivocally demonstrates that it was WTHR who initiated the contact, and Davis did nothing more than simply respond to WTHR’s inquiry it initiated,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote.

Attorney David Herzog of the Indianapolis office of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, who is representing Simon and his former beauty queen wife, Bui, declined to comment on the Supreme Court’s decision to hear their case.

Should the Supreme Court reverse the Court of Appeals’ decision, the case will return to Marion Superior Court. Judge Welch’s earlier denial of Davis’ motion to dismiss was based solely on jurisdiction and did not address the merits of the case.

Simon helped found Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group Inc. According to Forbes, his net worth is $1.6 billion. He and his wife have homes in Malibu and Santa Barbara in California, and in Indiana.
 
 

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