Testimony began this week before a federal jury in Oxford in a $189 million lawsuit by Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. against one of Mississippi’s top legal firms and other lawyers.
The tire company’s action against attorney John Booth Farese of Ashland, the Farese law firm and Bruce Kaster of Ocala, Fla., stems from the release of a legal document that Cooper claims hurt its stock.
The lawsuit is back in federal court in Oxford after twice working its way through the courts only to be reversed by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
According to court documents, Cooper Tire alleged Cathy Barnett, upon ending her employment at Cooper Tire, signed a separation agreement that contained a non-disparagement clause, which prevented Barnett from making negative comments about Cooper.
The tire manufacturer claims that despite the agreement, Barnett executed an affidavit, prepared with Farese, containing false and disparaging statements about Cooper Tire.
Despite knowledge of the separation agreement, Farese provided Barnett’s affidavit to another attorney, who provided it to Kaster, for use in pending litigation in Arkansas against Cooper Tire. Cooper Tire alleged Kaster leaked the affidavit to the media.
The affidavit had to do with the destruction of company documents by Barnett and another worker on the order of a Cooper Tire official in Tupelo. Barnett said the documents were related to the Arkansas lawsuit.
As a result, Cooper Tire claimed it sustained substantial losses to its stock value.
The company alleged Kaster paid Farese $50,000 after the Arkansas litigation was settled.
Farese contends in court documents that he was protecting his client by reducing her statement to an affidavit, and insists Cooper Tire wasn’t damaged.
Kaster said in court papers that he learned about the affidavit from an attorney associated with the Cooper Tire case in Arkansas and went after it to benefit his own client, saying the media already had access to the document.
Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://www.djournal.com
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