After a three-year legal battle, eBossWatch is pleased to announce that a defamation lawsuit filed against its founder Asher Adelman was dismissed on First Amendment grounds, striking a powerful blow for the free speech rights of bloggers and journalists in this country. Mr. Adelman was represented by Garen Meguerian, a Paoli, Pennsylvania-based sole practitioner. The lawsuit was filed by John Wintermute and his company Petro-Lubricant Testing Laboratories, who claimed that they were defamed by an article published on eBossWatch.com, as well as through Wintermute’s inclusion on the 2010 list of America’s Worst Bosses.
In dismissing the lawsuit, Judge Edward Gannon of the New Jersey Superior Court’s law division in Sussex County found that the allegations concerning Wintermute and his company were matters of public concern, and thus entitled to heightened protection under New Jersey law. We feel particularly vindicated because Judge Gannon also determined that our article was a fair report of the lawsuit facing Wintermute and his company.
The eBossWatch.com article and Wintermute’s inclusion in the list of America’s Worst Bosses was prompted by a sexual harassment, retaliation and whistleblower lawsuit filed against Wintermute and his company by a former employee Kristin Laforgia. Click here for more information about the Kristin Laforgia v. John Wintermute, Josiah Wintermute, and Petro-Lubricant Testing Laboratories, Inc. lawsuit. In June 2010 Laforgia sued John Wintermute (Lawsuit #2), his brother Josiah Wintermute and Petro-Lubricant Testing Laboratories, Inc., for allegedly subjecting Laforgia to a hostile work environment and for retaliating against her after she allegedly refused to lie for the company when it was defending a then-pending lawsuit alleging harassment filed by Lisa Ottaviano in 2009 (Lawsuit #1).
In Lawsuit #1, Ottaviano, another former female employee of Petr-Lubricant Testing Laboratories, Inc., claimed that she had been subject to sex discrimination and a hostile work environment by John Wintermute. Click here for more information about the Lisa Ottaviano v. John Wintermute and Petro-Lubricant Testing Laboratories, Inc. lawsuit. Ottaviano claimed that Wintermute pressured her into dating him and, that when she refused, Wintermute threatened her. Like Laforgia, Ottaviano also alleged that Wintermute frequently drank alcohol at the office and brought guns to the office. Wintermute and his company settled the Ottaviano lawsuit, and the settlement terms remain confidential.
Laforgia’s complaint and Lawsuit #2 came to the attention of eBossWatch because of its allegations, insofar as it characterized John Wintermute as a “white supremacist” and a “dangerous and violent alcoholic” who regularly drank alcohol at work. Laforgia claimed that Wintermute regularly harassed the women at work and that he had threatened to kill Ottaviano after she refused to continue dating him.
Ms. Laforgia’s lawsuit was first reported in the Courthouse News, and eBossWatch published a similar article soon afterwards.
After responding to her allegations, including by countersuing her, Wintermute and his company settled the Laforgia lawsuit in April 2011, and the settlement terms remain confidential.
After settling both Lawsuit #1 and Lawsuit#2 with the two former employees, and veiling the terms of those settlements in confidentiality agreements, Wintermute and his company turned their attention to eBosswatch – in what may best be described as an attempt to purge any and all reports of the Laforgia lawsuit from the internet. Well over a year after the publication of the eBossWatch article, Wintermute’s lawyers issued demand letters, which were followed by the filing of a defamation lawsuit in Sussex County, New Jersey – the county where Petro-Lubricant Testing is located. The litigation absorbed hundreds of hours in attorney time and hundreds of thousands of dollars to both prosecute and defend.
Wintermute’s tactics backfired. Although the litigation dragged-on for three years (significantly longer than either of the lawsuits filed by the former employees), Wintermute could no longer shroud the allegations in Lawsuit #1 and Lawsuit #2 under the veil of the confidentiality terms of his former employees’ settlement agreements. Because Wintermute filed his ridiculous lawsuit against us, we were able to explore most of the allegations made by Laforgia and Ottaviano, and in the coming days and weeks (as time permits), we will disclose that evidence – including videotaped deposition testimony by Wintermute himself – on this website as a public service.