Wendler's defamation case against AIG dropped by federal judge

Steve Korris Oct. 15, 2009, 2:48am

EAST ST. LOUIS – U.S. District Judge William Stiehl has cleared insurer AIG of charges that it defamed personal injury lawyer Brian Wendler of Edwardsville.

Stiehl granted summary judgment to AIG on Sept. 28, canceling a trial he had set to start in November.

Wendler sued AIG in Madison County Circuit Court in 2003, blaming it for a message on a Teamsters union website about his arrest on a domestic battery charge.

The message advised, "Don't make the same mistake me and my husband did – it's a waste of time."

Wendler regularly represents Teamsters with injury claims.

AIG removed the suit to federal court, where Stiehl granted summary judgment in 2007.

Wendler appealed, challenging every point in Stiehl's decision.

Seventh Circuit judges in Chicago upheld Stiehl on every point but one, scolding him for closing the case without disposing of a discovery motion from Wendler.

They sent the case back to Stiehl, who disposed of the motion and the case.

In his summary judgment order he pointed out that "remand from the Court of Appeals was not a wholesale opening of the discovery and claims floodgates."

Stiehl wrote that it was specific to the issue of whether AIG had useful information about the source of the message.

He wrote that it was Wendler's burden to connect AIG to the message, and not AIG's burden to prove a negative.

"[T]he latest round of discovery reveals that defendants have at least 20,000 employees and non-employees with access to an AIG computer," Stihl wrote.

"[D]efendants have no 'useful information' with respect to the source of the Internet posting."

He wrote that he allowed further discovery and it "reveals what the Seventh Circuit predicted – that AIG has nothing more to disclose."

Wendler fired back a day later, aiming to pull the props from under the order.

His lawyer, Michael Blotevogel of Alton, moved to strike AIG's reply to his response to AIG's motion for summary judgment.

He wrote that AIG replied a week too late.

"Defendants did not move for an extension of time, nor have Defendants cited any excusable neglect to justify their tardy filing," Blotevogel wrote.

He urged Stiehl to allow the case to proceed to trial.

Responding for AIG on Oct. 2, Eric Mattson of Chicago called the motion frivolous.

He wrote that AIG filed its reply on the due date.

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