Henrico County Delegate Joe Morrissey has filed a libel suit against Style Weekly, charging that a story detailing his legal battles with former associates intended to “damage Morrissey's reputation for honesty in the community.”
In the lawsuit, filed March 30 in Richmond Circuit Court, Morrissey asks for $10.35 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The suit also asks that compensatory damages be tripled under a provision in state law for allegedly conspiring to damage an individual in his or her trade, profession or business.
The lawsuit alleges that in story published April 2, 2008, Style knowingly made false statements in regard to Morrissey's testimony in an ongoing legal battle with the late Garien Wycoff, a local contractor who got into a fight with Morrissey in 1999. Wycoff sued, and was awarded $1 million in damages in 2002. The settlement was later reduced to $390,000.
In the article, “Bunco Joe?” by staff reporters Amy Biegelsen and Chris Dovi, Style reports that Morrissey maneuvered his financial resources to avoid paying Wycoff. In his lawsuit, Morrissey says the story states that he “committed perjury” in the process.
Biegelsen, Dovi and Style Editor in Chief Jason Roop are named as defendants in the suit, along with Style's parent company, Landmark Communications. Frank Batten Jr., chairman and chief executive of Landmark, is also a defendant.
“Because we're all named in Delegate Morrissey's lawsuit, it would be inappropriate for us to comment,” Roop says. “But we will answer his charges in court.”