Defamation suit pits one car dealer against another

LISBON – The owner of Columbiana Buick Cadillac Chevrolet has sued the owner of Brittain Motors in East Palestine in a defamation lawsuit filed Monday in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court.

According to the lawsuit, David A. Flynn Inc., doing business as Columbiana Buick Cadillac Chevrolet, claims Thomas Brittain and his attorney David P. Powers sent a letter containing “false and/or misleading statements” about Flynn to the East Palestine village manager on June 18, 2012.

The letter was discussed before East Palestine Village Council that month, leading to a story being printed in the Morning Journal about why Brittain Motors Inc. was not going to be able to move to a new location on state Route 14.

Powers confirmed the lawsuit deals with the negotiations about the move, which still has not happened.

According to the Journal’s coverage at the meeting, Powers had said that in order to relocate, the move must have the consent of neighboring dealerships within a 10-mile radius. He said the requirement is based on the Ohio automobile franchise law. The story continued that Powers had said in a letter to Village Manager Pete Monteleone that Brittain and Flynn had reached a written agreement regarding the move, but Flynn has since “reneged” and was refusing to sign off on the document.

A copy of the letter is not attached to the lawsuit filed this week.

“The conduct of the defendants in publishing said letter containing falsehoods against and about the plaintiff, conveyed the commonly understood inflection that the plaintiff breached an agreement with defendant, Thomas J. Brittain and Brittain Motors, Inc. That defamation was and is false,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit continues to claim the act of having the letter published was libelous and sending the letter to a governmental entity was an act of malice, hatred and ill will toward Flynn.

Flynn is claiming the defamation of his character has cost his good reputation as a business person in the area. He is seeking more than $25,000 in damages.

Brittain said he has not yet seen a copy of the lawsuit, although he was aware of it. He reserved his comments for a later date.

Flynn did not return phone calls to him at his dealerships on Tuesday. Neither did his attorney, Robert S. Bouffard of Youngstown.