An Illinois agriculture construction company has filed a counterclaim alleging defamation against a former employee after he accused the defendant of firing him for refusing to be part of an alleged insurance fraud scheme.

In a Sept. 29 lawsuit, plaintiff Steven Dion Vinyard says he began working for defendant Bob Lamb Inc. in June 1993 building grain elevators and other farm equipment. In June 2011 Vinyard claims he hurt his back on the job and asked to take a few days off.

Vinyard alleges his manager, Jacob Lamb, told him to turn the claim into his private health insurance instead of filing a workers’ compensation claim. Lamb allegedly told Vinyard he would be laid off, collect unemployment, and if the income was less than what he was paid by Bob Lamb, then the company will pay the difference.

Vinyard says he went to see a doctor for back surgery in November 2012. He claims he was told to file a workers’ compensation claim and that he could not bill his medical care to his private health insurance. When Vinyard told Lamb what the doctor said, Lamb allegedly became upset and complained that his workers’ compensation insurance premiums would go up. But Vinyard says he made it clear he would not lie about his back injury.

According to the complaint, Vinyard filed a workers’ compensation claim and returned to work with restrictions in 2013, while his attorneys were in discussions with Bob Lamb’s attorneys about the claim. On Jan. 24 Vinyard says he was fired from his job.

Bob Lamb filed a counterclaim on Nov. 26, asserting claims against the plaintiff pursuant to the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and for defamation.

Vinyard filed a motion to dismiss the counterclaim on Dec. 5, saying the arguments are time barred under the statute of limitations.

He argues that the defendant alleges the plaintiff made at least one defamatory statement in 2012 and at least one more defamatory statement during the spring and summer of 2013.

Therefore, the defendant was aware of all alleged instances of defamation prior to the end of the summer of 2013, but didn’t file the defamation counterclaim until November, more than one year later.

Vinyard also argues that Bob Lamb’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act claim fails because it does not state damages authorized by the statute.

Bob Lamb filed a motion for leave to file an amended counterclaim on Dec. 11, seeking injunction relief with respect to the Illinois Deceptive Business Practice Act. It also requested an opportunity to remove its damages claim.

The plaintiff is represented by Lee W. Barron and William D. Buchanan of Alton.

The defendant is represented by Patrick A. Watts of Sturycz Watts LLC in St. Louis and Michael J. Hertz of Lucco, Brown, Threlkeld & Dawson, LLP, in Edwardsville.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 14-L-1332

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