A Republican state lawmaker that routinely decries “lawsuit abuse” and “feeding trial lawyers” has filed a $5 million civil lawsuit against a fellow state lawmaker for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, is suing state Senator Mark Wyland, R- San Diego, for defamation, presenting her in a false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to court records first obtained by SDRostra.com. Harkey says that Wyland’s statements at a summer Tea Party event exposed her to “hatred, contempt, ridicule” and even caused her to seek “medical treatment on a number of occasions.”
Wyland allegedly alluded to Harkey’s ongoing financial and legal troubles surrounding the bankruptcy of Point Center Financial Inc., a company that is controlled by her husband, Dan. The Orange County Assemblywoman has reported the company on her financial disclosure forms filed with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission. Disgruntled investors say that Dan Harkey made ill-advised loans and pocketed additional fees from the company. In July, a jury “found Dan Harkey and his company liable for $9 million to investors,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
The week of the jury verdict, Wyland allegedly made these statements– that were apparently so hateful that they forced Harkey to seek medical treatment:
“Unfortunately, there has been a lawsuit brought by a lot of investors of modest means against her and her husband for defrauding them. There was decision that those investors were defrauded and there is a judgment.”
Those words, Harkey says, are worth $5 million in compensation.
“As a direct and proximate result of the Defendant’s acts alleged herein, HARKEY was caused to obtain medical treatment on a number of occasions as of the filing of this Complaint, which medical treatment will continue for an indeterminable length of time. HARKEY requests compensatory damages in the sum of Five Million Dollars ($5,000,000.00),” Harkey’s complaint states.
In her complaint, Harkey claims that “only a portion of Wyland’s statement is true. A lawsuit was filed against Harkey and her husband. However, the characterization of the ‘investors of modest means’ is false in that there are many investors who have substantial financial resources.”
While Harkey has filed a $5 million lawsuit against Wyland for allegedly misstating facts, her own complaint gets some simple facts wrong. Harkey’s complaint refers to “the public office for which she seeking as a Member of the Franchise Tax Board.” That’s factually incorrect. Not only is Harkey seeking a position on the state Board of Equalization, but members of the Franchise Tax Board are not elected at all.
As a member of the legislature, Harkey has repeatedly criticized lawsuit abuse. Earlier this month, Harkey opposed SB 131, a measure to allow victims of sexual abuse to bring civil lawsuits against private organizations that harbored abusers.
Harkey, according to her legislative website, has also introduced legislation that “prevents lawsuit abuse and protect our state and local municipalities.” She has also criticized the state’s payment of interest on legal settlements because “often times merely serve to fund the next lawsuit against small businesses and California employers.”