Pegram wins ruling in defamation suit vs Jamgotchian
A district judge in Douglas County, Nevada, has ruled against a motion by horse owner Jerry Jamgotchian to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by Mike Pegram, a fellow horse owner, Nevada casino operator and chairman of the board of directors of Thoroughbred Owners of California.
Pegram filed the complaint in December 2011, alleging Jamgotchian had “perpetrated a harmful and malicious smear campaign” against him through widely distributed emails suggesting that Pegram, in his capacity with TOC, “engaged in serious criminal conduct, including theft of the organization's funds.”
Among the numerous Jamgotchian emails cited in the suit is one allegedly sent Dec. 1, 2011, reading: “PEGRAM AND THE CURRENT TOC BOARD MEMBERS” are “BUSY ‘STEALING' MONEY FROM THE TOC'S NON-PARIMUTUEL ACCOUNT!!!”
The suit was filed in Nevada's Douglas County, where Pegram resides. Pegram claims the Jamgotchian emails were distributed to Nevada residents, including “Nevada reporters, publications with Nevada subscribers, and a Nevada newspaper.”
Because Pegram is licensed to operate casinos in Nevada and is monitored by Nevada Gaming Control authorities, the suit claims that the “serious criminal accusations contained in the misrepresentations have harmed, and could continue to harm, Mr. Pegram's reputation and business interests.”
Jamgotchian sought to have the case dismissed, claiming the Nevada court lacks personal jurisdiction over him because he is a resident of California and that Pegram failed to show “sufficient facts” for the court to exercise “long-arm jurisdiction.”
Jamgotchian also argued that there was no evidence to show that he intentionally targeted Pegram and denied sending the emails to other Nevada residents with the intention of harming Pegram or adversely affecting his business interests. Jamgotchian also claimed, District Judge Michael P. Gibbons wrote, that Jamgotchian had no knowledge that Pegram “lived or worked” in Nevada.
Pegram countered that Jamgotchian indicated his knowledge of Pegram's Nevada casino interests when Jamgotchian posted comments on Paulick Report articles about Pegram and continued to send what he said were “defamatory emails” to him and others in Nevada, even after the complaint was filed.
“Pegram argues the sheer number of emails and recipients over the period of September 2010 through August 2012 constitutes systematic, continuous contact with Nevada and that these facts support a finding of general jurisdiction allowing this court to proceed.”
The judge ruled in Pegram's favor, denying Jamgotchian's motion to dismiss. However, he also ordered that Pegram must still establish personal jurisdiction “by a preponderance of the evidence at hearing or trial.” He also ruled the motion may be re-filed if there is significant new evidence after discovery.