Early in 1999 Life Partners, Inc.
filed a SLAPP suit against me in state court in
I was not served.
Days passed. Weeks passed. I was not served. Early in February a friend contacted the court to order a copy of the complaint for me. He was instructed to send a written request with credit card information. He did. The complaint was not sent.
March 5,1999 a summons and complaint were delivered by certified mail to my business
Unknown to me, Pardo had gone to his favorite court and favorite judge, an elderly man known to be hard-of-hearing, and filed a default action. The hearing was held on April Fool's Day, 1999. Intentional?
Pardo and LPI were represented by Scott Peden, an attorney, general counsel, and president of LPI. Much later I received a copy of the transcript--a gift from an attorney I assisted pro bono. I laughed so much while reading it my dogs became excited, thinking it was play time.
I laughed to realize everything I
ever heard about
Pardo testified as an expert. Peden asked the judge if he should qualify Pardo as an expert. The judge said, "No." He said no because, he explained, "I don't know anything about this, upside to downside." That was the start of my legal-inspired hysteria.
The judge "found" Wolk "displayed no expertise in the field of viatical settlements through either of her books" or the web site. Never mind that I was never given opportunity to display anything. And LPI's favorite state court judge opined that the allegations of plaintiff's complaint were admitted. All this, and the judgment, were based on the default hearing. Does "kangaroo court" come to mind?
The hearing concluded with the judge's ruling. Among the damages: Five thousand in attorney fees; actual damages of $1.5 million with post-judgment interest at the rate of ten percent per annum until paid; punitive and exemplary damages of $1.5 million with the same interest.
Additionally, I was ordered to turn
over to Pardo every undistributed copy of both books and remove from my web
site all statements to which he objected. This order extended to everyone
affiliated with me. Amazon? Barnes and Noble? Pardo also asked the court to
confiscate all my books that were in libraries or stored at my home. That
request was denied. The judge thought it would be difficult to get
I did get an attorney. He did get
the default reversed. The judge ordered a new trial and the plaintiff was
ordered to amend the allegations: "enumerate in quotations each and every
statement it contends Defendant made that is defamatory and, in addition,
identify the specific source of each such statement." The amended complaint,
My attorney, Britton D. Monts of
Dallas, Texas, was denied a special appearance. Monts appealed. He wanted to
challenge jurisdiction--I had not visited
Monts contacted LPI's counsel by
phone and by mail, citing relevant case law and statutory authority to
demonstrate conclusively the lack of jurisdictional basis for LPI's appeal.
When LPI refused to dismiss its appeal, Monts filed a motion to dismiss the
Monts dismissed his own appeal and
did not challenge jurisdiction. My web site did reach
The lawsuit displayed other hallmarks of SLAPP lawsuits--any tactic to run up the costs of defense. When finally the case settled, LPI insisted on a confidentiality clause. That taught me another lesson. I learned never to agree to confidentiality. Since that time LPI has violated that clause but I am silenced. They can choose to misrepresent the terms but if I attempt to address this, they will sue me. They know I cannot afford to sue them.