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Jury Sides with Plaintiff in Defamation, Witness Intimidation Case Yancey v. Weis

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An important witness intimidation case involving the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recently came to a noteworthy close.

In Yancey v. Weis, Dr. Charles Yancey, a Minnesota ophthalmologist who testified against two other physicians (Drs. Weis and Hardten) in a malpractice case, and was then accused by them of deliberately misleading the jury with false information, filed suit against the doctors for defamation, interference with business opportunities, and witness tampering.

Though in February 2008, the court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Drs. Weis and Hardten on claims of witness tampering and interference with business opportunities, it denied summary judgment on the defamation claims.

Earlier this week, the defamation claims finally came through in Yancey’s favor, when arguments made by Center for Constitutional Litigation (CCL) Vice President John Vail and Minneapolis attorney Mike Zimmer resulted in a jury award to Yancey of $200,000 to compensate for “future harm to his reputation, mental distress, humiliation, and embarrassment,” and $150,000 to compensate for attorney fees and legal costs.

The jury of Minnesota’s Fourth Judicial District Court found that defendants Weis and Hardten defamed Yancey in asking the AAO to open an ethical investigation into him for misleading a jury after he had testified against the two doctors in court.

Before proceeding to this trial, plaintiff Yancey had won two summary judgment motions against Weis and Hardten, including the crucial ruling that the doctors’ actions against Yancey were not immunized by the federal Health Care Quality Improvement Act.