The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jacqueline H. Nguyen United States District Judge
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND RELATED COUNTER CLAIMS.
Trial Date: April 19-22, 2011
This action was originally filed by Plaintiffs and Counter-Defendants Lucky Kim International, Inc. ("Lucky") and its owners, Hyo Sook Kim ("Mrs. Kim") and Kyo Bong Kim ("Mr. Kim"), naming as Defendants Seo In Corporation ("SIC") and others. SIC counter-sued, alleging that Mrs. Kim engaged in defamation by making false oral statements against SIC and causing false written statements about SIC to be disseminated to other textile companies. All claims in this matter were resolved prior to trial either by way of dismissal or summary judgment, except for the defamation claim alleged in SIC's counter- claim against Counter-Defendants. The defamation claim was also dismissed as against Mr. Kim by the parties' stipulation at trial.
The matter was tried before the Court on April 19--22, 2011. On April 27, 2011, the Court issued an Order of Judgment in Favor of Counter-Defendants. (Docket no. 161.) Having reviewed the testimony and exhibits presented at trial, the Court now makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.
1. SIC alleged defamation against Mrs. Kim and Lucky in the forms of slander and libel. The allegations are based on statements made by Mrs. Kim, in her role as Lucky's president, to members of the Korean-American Textile Association ("KATA") and the three Korean textile vendors-including SIC- involved in this action. The statements on which the defamation claims rest include (1) oral statements Mrs. Kim made at three KATA meeting; (2) a fax Mrs. Kim sent to KATA; and (3) a letter sent by KATA on October 13, 2009, to the three textile vendors.
2. All statements alleged as defamatory centered around complaints that Mrs. Kim had concerning the conduct by a former employee of Lucky named Jung Hee Ahn. Ahn was employed by Lucky as a sales representative between early January and early June, 2009. During that time, Ahn took orders from buyers and placed orders with Korean textile vendors on behalf of her own company, I & J, Ltd. ("I & J").
3. Mrs. Kim did not refer to SIC at the July or August KATA meeting. At the October meeting, the letter from KATA to the three textile vendors was discussed, but there was no evidence of oral statements by Mrs. Kim that went beyond the content of the letter sent by KATA.
4. The fax sent by Mrs. Kim to KATA members primarily involves Ahn's conduct. Only one paragraph refers to SIC. That paragraph states that SIC and the other Korean vendors knew that Ahn did sales work in the name of I & J while she worked for Lucky but "nonetheless, provided all cooperation needed for sales through" I & J.
5. The letter sent to the three vendors by KATA centers on Ahn's conduct. The letter asserted that KATA members would discontinue business with SIC if SIC continued to deal with I & J and that SIC "supplied fabric to and received payments from that separate company that the sales rep had established, knowing clearly that she was an employee of Lucky Textile."
6. Mrs. Kim directed the letter to be written and approved it before it was sent.
7. Though the letter from KATA does not refer to Ahn or I & J by name, the evidence establishes that these were the sales representative and company at issue in the letter.
8. Ahn was employed by Lucky as a sales representative between early January and early June, 2009, and earned $4,500 per month.
9. Ahn established I & J shortly before beginning to work for Lucky and she used Lucky resources, including samples, office space, a computer, an email account, and ...