2007 Sep 21: Programmes Internationaux D’Echanges v. Grijalva: Conspiracy; Defamation; Tortious Interference

From DMLP

Location of Filing/Threat: North Carolina
Source of Law: North Carolina

Court Name: North Carolina District Court, Forsyth County
Court Type: State

Case Number: 2007-CVD-656

Threat Type: Lawsuit
Date:  09/21/2007
Status: Pending
Location:  North Carolina
Disposition: Injunction Issued
Verdict/Settlement Amount: n/a
Legal Claims: Conspiracy; Defamation; Tortious Interference

PARTIES

Party Issuing Legal Threat: Programmes Internationaux D’Echanges; ASSE International, Inc.; World Heritage, Inc.

Type of Party: Organization
Location of Party: California; New York; France
Legal Counsel: Robert M. Elliot; Richard D. Menaker (Programmes Internationaux D’Echanges)

Party Receiving Legal Threat: Danielle Joyce Grijalva; Veronica Beddick

Type of Party: Individual
Location of Party: California; North Carolina
Legal Counsel: Jennifer Arno (Grijalva)

DESCRIPTION

Programmes Internationaux D’Echanges (P.I.E.), a French nonprofit that organizes student exchange programs, filed suit against Danielle Grijalva, director of the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CSFES), over emails and postings on CSFES’s website that criticized the organization’s handling of students. P.I.E.’s complaint asserted claims of defamation, civil conspiracy, interference with contract, and interference with business relationships. The suit also named as a defendant Veronica Beddick, a former employee of ASSE International, a nonprofit that assisted in student placements, alleging that she provided confidential information to Grijalva and assisted in the disputed acts.

In emails and postings to the CSFES website, Grijalva allegedly accused the plaintiff organizations of numerous wrondoings related to their treatment of foreign exchange students.

According to the complaint and other court filings, the accusations included that the organizations failed to place students in schools, failed to place students in permanent homes, placed students in homes with felons, and otherwise violated laws that regulate foreign exchange programs.

According to press reports, Grijalva has said that she sent an email to the father of a foreign exchange student at the student’s request but that she has not engaged in any “mass effort” to contact students, their families, or host families.

P.I.E.’s complaint included a request for a temporary restraining order against Grijalva and Beddick. On September 21, 2007, the court granted the request, ordering the defendants to cease communicating with P.I.E. students as well as the students’ familes, host familes, and educational institutions. The temporary restraining order, by its terms, expired after 10 days unless the court renewed it.

On Dec. 12, 2007, the court granted a preliminary injunction against Grijalva that reiterated the prohibition on direct communication with students and others involved with the plaintiffs and further ordered her to refrain from disseminating false or misleading information about the plaintiff organizations via email or her website.

On May 30, 2008, the court granted a near-identical preliminary injunction against Grijalva brought by P.I.E. associates (and plaintiff-intervenors) ASSE and World Heritage, Inc.

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