AIG moves for summary judgment in Wendler defamation case

Steve Korris Aug. 27, 2009, 9:51am

EAST ST. LOUIS – Edwardsville lawyer Brian Wendler can't depose two witnesses he previously deposed in his defamation suit against insurer AIG, U.S. District Judge William Stiehl ruled on Aug. 19.

Stiehl declined to overturn Magistrate Judge Clifford Proud, who held that the witnesses couldn't shed light on the source of an Internet message Wendler blamed on AIG.

"Plaintiff has not established how further depositions of these witnesses, who previously stated they had no knowledge of these postings, would now result in new and relevant information," Stiehl wrote.

Wendler claims AIG purposely harmed his reputation in 2002 by posting news of his domestic battery arrest on a Teamster union website.

A message with the article warned, "Don't make the same mistake me and my husband did – it's a waste of money."

Wendler, who represents Teamsters in personal injury cases, sued AIG at Madison County circuit court in 2003.

AIG removed the suit to federal court, where Stiehl granted summary judgment in favor of the insurer in 2006.

Stiehl ruled that AIG couldn't trace the posting to its source.

Wendler appealed to the Seventh Circuit in Chicago on several points, and judges there affirmed Stiehl on every point but one.

They held that Stiehl shouldn't have granted summary judgment without resolving a pending discovery motion from Wendler.

They sent the case back to Stiehl, and Wendler moved to depose Erik Szonyi and Arnold Felberbaum.

Proud denied the motion, and Wendler asked Stiehl to overrule Proud.

Stiehl, however, agreed with Proud.

"Plaintiff has had multiple bites at the discovery apple in this case," Stiehl wrote.

"The remand from the Court of Appeals was not a wholesale opening of the discovery floodgates," he wrote.

"It was limited and specific," he wrote.

Stiehl has set trial for October, and AIG has moved for a summary judgment order that would render a trial unnecessary.

Stiehl gave Wendler 20 days to respond to AIG's motion.

AIG, the world's largest insurer, nearly collapsed last year due to defaults on credit transactions it insured.

U.S. taxpayers bailed out AIG and took 80 percent ownership.

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