Attorney Gary Peel filed a four-count civil complaint against his former wife, his son, The Madison/St. Clair Record and one of its reporters in Madison County Circuit Court alleging the newspaper published private facts.
On Nov. 21, 2005, the Record published an article, "Mermaid sculptures, $40k diamond--conveyances of love for bankrupt lawyer."
Peel filed bankruptcy in July 2005.
In the suit filed Jan. 20, Peel claims his ex-wife, Deborah J. Peel directly or through their son David, gave Record Reporter Steve Korris an "uncorrected" transcript of an examination of Peel conducted in his bankruptcy case on Nov. 16, 2005.
"At the time of this distribution or disclosure to Steve Korris, [the defendants] knew, or intended, that all or parts of the transcript of the . . . examination would be published in said newspaper of general circulation," Peel writes in his complaint.
Peel claims that on Sept. 29, 2005, he submitted himself to an examination which was part of his bankruptcy hearing pending in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Illinois.
According to Peel, the defendants knew, or should have known, that the transcript was "uncorrected" or incomplete because the accompanying notarial certificate was neither signed nor notarized.
Peel also claims the blank signature notation on the transcript, as well as its indication that signature was reserved, evidenced his intent to review and make any necessary corrections to the transcript before it would be considered complete and accurate.
He claims the "corrected" transcript of the examination contained 24 corrections, which were attached to the final version. Peel does not allege that the corrections related to any information reported in the article or that the article was inaccurate in any respect.
Peel claims that the transcript was private and intended for the limited and non-public use of creditors in his bankruptcy proceeding.
"Said transcript was not filed as part of the public record of the bankruptcy proceeding to which it applied," the complaint alleges.
He states the transcript contained personal and private facts and information that were not publicly listed in the bankruptcy schedules, including facts relating to his personal finances, purchases of gifts for his spouse and miscellaneous credit card purchases.
Peel claims by submitting to the examination, he had a reasonable expectation of privacy and a reasonable expectation that the transcript of the examination would be utilized for the bankruptcy proceedings and would not otherwise be distributed for public consumption.
The statements, facts and contents of Peel's examination "were in fact private (or intended for limited bankruptcy proceeding purposes), not public," the complaint states.
Peel claims the publication of portions of his examination is highly offensive and further asserts that the facts published were not of legitimate public concern.
Peel, representing himself, is seeking damages from each defendant individually for an amount "greatly in excess" of $50,000 in compensatory damages, and for a sum also "greatly in excess" of $50,000 in punitive damages plus all costs of the suit.
The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian.
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