Madison - St. Clair Record

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Astronomers ordered to amend defamation complaint seeking $33 million

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Feb 6, 2018

Madison County Circuit Judge Andreas Matoesian ordered two astronomers to amend their suit alleging another astronomer made defamatory statements within their professional community. 

Wyoming residents Timothy and Stephanie Slater filed the complaint on Nov. 21, 2016, against Pamela Gay.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs allege Gay stalked them at various conferences in an attempt to take customers and grants from them. They also claim she made false allegations of misconduct and disseminating slanderous and libelous statements within their professional community.

According to Gay's website, she is the Director of Technology and Citizen Science at the Astronomical Society for the Paciic. She previously worked as a professor.

As a result, the Slaters allege they lost opportunities for advancement and suffered reduced book sales and speaking engagements.

On Jan. 26, Matoesian granted the plaintiffs 30 days to amend their complaint in order to address Gay’s request for a bill of particulars.

The plaintiffs are ordered to state what parts of the University of Arizona document regarding harassment are false, identify all persons or organizations to which they allege Gay sent a defamatory email, identify which statements made in an email are false and provide allegations setting out which entity the alleged defamatory information was spread to.

Gay filed a demand for a bill of particulars in February 2017 through attorney Michael Murphy of Freeark Harvey & Mendillo PC in Belleville and Ferne Wolf of Sowers & Wolf LLC in St. Louis.

She argued that the plaintiffs’ complaint is “so wanting in detail the claim is deficient.”

“The allegations of the Plaintiffs’ Complaint as to Pamela Gay are devoid of basic facts which would allow her to file a responsive pleading,” the motion states.

Gay argues that the Slaters failed to identify which oral or written statements were defamatory and failed to set forth facts identifying the dates or time periods during which the alleged defamatory conduct occurred.

“Without such information, Pamela Gay’s ability to investigate the allegations and formulate a meaningful response is prejudiced,” the motion states.

The plaintiffs responded by filing a motion to strike the demand for a bill of particulars, arguing that their complaint is not vague. The original complaint was approximately 15 pages long with 56 paragraphs.

“Despite the breath and the detail of the Plaintiffs’ complaint the Defendant has filed a motion basically directed to three paragraphs,” the motion stated.

The plaintiffs seek more than $50,000 in compensatory damages and $33 million in punitive damages.

Matoesian scheduled a jury trial for Jan. 22, 2019. 

They are represented by John Wendler of Edwardsville.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 16-L-1598

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Madison County Circuit Court Sowers & Wolf LLC