The Cassidy Law Firm Blog

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Court Cites Producer of "Wild" Videos for Contempt in Defamation Lawsuit, Awards Plaintiff $3 Million

What are the consequences of ignoring court orders in a civil lawsuit?

In "Girls Gone Wild" videos there may be no rules, but the New Jersey courts, breaking the rules can lead to a multi-million dollar judgment and threats of arrest.

In a civil lawsuit, plaintiff Ashley Arpaio, a Sussex County dental assistant, sued Joe Francis, the producer behind the salacious videos, after a woman in one of his videos falsely identified herself as Arpaio and held up a driver's license to buttress the claim. In fact, the woman was Ashley Dupre, a prostitute better known for her involvement in the downfall of Eliot Spitzer.

Arpaio's lawsuit alleged invasion of privacy, defamation, misappropriation of her name, and more. She sought punitive as well as compensatory damages.

Disregarding Court Orders Led to the Contempt Citation and Huge Judgment

The defendant, according the court, repeatedly ignored and disregarded court orders, needlessly prolonging the lawsuit, which is currently in its eight year in a Newark federal court. Among other things, the defendant refused to provide a current address or contact information for service of process and skipped a deposition he was required to attend. Holding the defendant in contempt, the court granted the plaintiff the $3 million she sought, plus an additional $50,655 in attorneys' fees and expenses.

This is the second time a $3 million dollar judgment has been entered against the defendant. The first was vacated on jurisdictional grounds. The court also ordered Francis to provide his address or be arrested.

Criminal Contempt Could Follow Civil Contempt if A Defendant Persists in Ignoring Court Orders

In New Jersey, courts may hold a defendant in contempt for several types of misconduct, some in the presence of the judge, some not. Disobeying a court order, impeding the progress of a case, and many other actions can lead to being held in civil and/or criminal contempt. While there are differences between civil and criminal contempt -- notably jail time in the case of the latter -- both should be avoided.

As this case shows, taking court orders seriously is an important part of winning a lawsuit. Evasive or unethical conduct is, in the long run, a losing strategy. If you have been wronged or harmed and want to sue, or if you are a target of litigation, experienced litigation counsel can help you fight vigorously and prevail while staying within the rules.

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