Wendler can't depose AIG personnel over 7-year-old Internet posting

By Steve Korris | May 8, 2009

EAST ST. LOUIS – Edwardsville lawyer Brian Wendler can't depose representatives of insurer AIG in his search for the source of an Internet message about him, U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifford Proud has decided.

On April 22 Proud denied motions that would have compelled Erik Szonyi, Arnold Felberbaum and other corporate designees to answer Wendler's questions.

Wendler had deposed Szonyi and Felberbaum in 2005 in connection with his claim that an AIG employee posted the message and defamed him.

Proud wrote that AIG's answers to interrogatories showed that the company possessed no useful information about the source.

That spelled trouble for Wendler because Seventh Circuit appeals judges in Chicago held that if AIG had no useful information, Wendler would lose.

The Seventh Circuit reopened the case after District Judge William Stiehl threw it out, ruling that first he should have resolved a pending discovery motion from Wendler.

Proud wrote that a second deposition of Szonyi would be outside the scope of the Seventh Circuit's limited remand.

He rejected an argument that Felberbaum opened himself to a second deposition by submitting an affidavit that contradicted his testimony.

"The possibility that exploring possible or apparent contradictions might lead to a benefit is insufficient to overcome the standard set forth in the federal rules of civil procedure," he wrote.

"It is unlikely that re-deposing Mr. Felberbaum will lead to new information aside from possibly catching Mr. Felberbaum in a contradiction, but speculative benefits are most certainly outweighed by the cost and burden of re-deposing Mr. Felberbaum," he wrote.

He wrote that the motion to depose designees depended on a presumption that documents exist because AIG objected to their production.

He wrote that "there is little benefit, as made clear by plaintiff's lack of elaboration as to what additional depositions would provide."

Wendler didn't articulate any potential benefit in the depositions, he wrote, and his reasons for them had nothing to do with the motion to compel.

Wendler represents Teamster union members in personal injury suits.

In 2002, someone posted on the Teamster website a newspaper article about his arrest on a domestic battery charge.

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

Wendler sued AIG at Madison County circuit court in 2003, claiming an independent investigation traced the posting to the insurer.

AIG removed the suit to federal court.

Michael Blotevogel of LakinChapman represents Wendler.

Eric Mattson of Chicago represents AIG.

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

Taxpayers bailed out AIG and took 80 percent ownership.

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