Defense attorney John Cunningham correctly predicted that it wouldn’t take long for Madison County jurors to find in favor of his client, David Tarrant of Collinsville.
Following a two-day trial in Circuit Judge William Mudge’s courtroom, jurors reached a decision after 25 minutes of deliberations on Tuesday afternoon. They found for Tarrant on all three counts of a suit filed against him by Robert Dorman, also of Collinsville.
Dorman claimed he lost his stake in the 125-member Collinsville Recreation Club because Tarrant advocated for his ouster after the two engaged in a heated argument at the club in October 2010.
Following the argument, Dorman was suspended from the private men’s club during the organization’s board meeting in November 2010. His membership was later terminated by a majority vote of members present at an April 2011 annual meeting.
He claims his ouster was based on false accusations that he threatened to kill Tarrant, as well as to do harm to Tarrant’s children and grandchildren when the two argued.
Their confrontation stemmed from an encounter between Tarrant and Dorman’s toddler son at the club.
Dorman’s version of events was based upon what his wife told him – that Tarrant had pulled the hair of his 2-year-old (nearly 3) boy because the boy was patting Tarrant’s belly. Dorman’s wife claimed that the boy’s eyes “watered” after the incident. She then went looking for her husband who did not witness the encounter, shouting, “emergency,” “emergency.”
Dorman then confronted Tarrant.
Plaintiff attorney William Berry told jurors that there was no question that tempers flared during the Oct. 11, 2010 incident.
He said Dorman was being protective of his wife and son when angry words were spoken, but he denied saying to Tarrant, “I will kill you if you ever touch my kid.”
Rather, Dorman claimed he said to Tarrant, “I will wipe you out.”
Dorman’s wife also acknowledged that she said to Tarrant, “I hate you,” “I hope you die,” and “You are so fat,” after the encounter.
Berry said his client lost 125th interest in the equity of the corporation’s assets valued at more than $50,000. He said that Dorman lost both a tangible asset and the intangible enjoyment of membership in the club.
During closing, Berry questioned the credibility of defense witness testimony.
He also said that a recording of Tarrant saying, “We have to do something,” and “We have to stop this” at the November 2010 board meeting at which Dorman was suspended, was evidence of his interference with Dorman’s right to membership.
When Cunningham addressed jurors during closing, he apologized to them for having to sit through “a case like this.”
“In my 27 years this has got to be the most ridiculous one I have ever been involved in,” he said. “I don’t want you to think this is the type of frivolous case that goes on here.”
Cunningham said that Dorman was the one who brought the matter to the attention of the board in the first place, not Tarrant.
He said Dorman “had his chance” to make his case.
Cunningham said that a board member named “Turner” made a motion to suspend Dorman. Another board member Tim Herberts seconded the motion and the measure passed the board unanimously.
“Mr. Tarrant did not campaign against Mr. Dorman,” Cunningham said.
He said his client didn’t do anything wrong.
“But you don’t have to do something wrong to be sued,” Cunningham said. “All you have to do to sue is file paperwork and pay a filing fee.”
“You would think that the Dormans would be so embarrassed they would not want anyone to hear” about what happened, Cunningham said.
Cunningham presented two witnesses who viewed video surveillance of the area where Tarrant and the child encountered one and both stated that Tarrant did not pull the child’s hair. Tarrant testified the child was moving toward him and that as a natural reaction he put his hand up to prevent the child from running into his groin.
Cunningham said Tarrant was walking across a parking lot when he was confronted after the encounter by Dorman who was screaming at him, “I’m going to kill you.”
Cunningham said Doman shouted “I’m going to kill you,” six or eight times.
“Can you believe the audacity and the nerve after verbally attacking (Tarrant),” Cunningham said of Dorman's lawsuit.
Jurors began deliberations after 3 p.m.
“I don’t think deliberations should take very long,” Cunningham said.