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Mary Cummins appeals Texas freedom of speech case
Mary Cummins of Animal Advocates filed her appeal to the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth, Texas Cause No. 02-12-00285-CV. The appeal stems from a district case originally filed in 2010 by Amanda Lollar and Bat World Sanctuary. Appellees sued Appellant for defamation and breach of contract. In trial Judge William Brigham of the 352nd District Court ruled in favor of Appellees.
History of the case from the brief: "Appellant flew to Texas at her own expense to be an intern at Bat World Sanctuary. Cummins was to receive advanced training in bat care. While Cummins was there she witnessed animal cruelty, animal neglect, violations of the Health Code, Animal Welfare Act, Texas Parks & Wildlife regulations besides other violations of law. Cummins left the internship and reported Appellees to authorities giving detailed written reports along with photos and videos. Plaintiffs were investigated by authorities and violations were found. After Cummins reported Plaintiffs to authorities, Plaintiffs filed this frivolous and malicious defamation and breach of contract claim against Cummins in retaliation."
Appellant Mary Cummins in trial and in her appeal raised the following issues. Appellees are limited-purpose public figures with respect to their voluntary and public participation in animal care. Appellant's reports to authorities and statements were about matters of public concern besides privileged. For those reason Appellees had to prove that the items posted were false.
Besides being required to prove falsity Appellees had to prove the basic four elements of defamation for each statement. These four elements are (1) the statement is a verifiable statement of fact, (2) is false or not substantially true, (3) is of and concerning Appellees and (4) is capable of conveying a defamatory meaning about Appellees. In this case Appellees also had to prove that Appellant wrote the statements and did so with malice.
The second claim in the original case was breach of contract. Appellees had to prove all four elements of breach of contract. These four elements are (1) the existence of a valid contract, (2) performance by the Plaintiffs, (3) breach of the contract by Defendant, and (4) damages sustained by Plaintiffs as a result of the breach.
The original judgment against Appellant included $3,000,000 in compensatory damages, $3,000,000 in exemplary damages, $176,000 in legal fees and $10,000 in liquidated damages.
In Appellant's brief Cummins argues that Appellees did not show the elements of defamation or breach of contract. Cummins also argues that Appellees did not prove damages, causation or malice and the award was excessive.
Appellees have 30 days to reply to Appellant's brief. Documents for this Appeal are located in the Second Court of Appeal's website here http://www.2ndcoa.courts.state.tx.us/opinions/case.asp?FilingID=26502 Appellant's brief minus tabs 2-6 is here http://www.animaladvocates.us/mary_cummins_appeal_04052013.pdf Mary Cummins is representing herself pro se. Attorney Randy Turner of Bailey & Galyen represents the Appellees.
Judge Bonnie Sudderth is the judge for the 352nd District Court. The Justices of the Court for the Second Court of Appeals are Chief Justice Terrie Livingston, Justice Lee Anne Dauphinot, Justice Anne Gardner, Justice Sue Walker, Justice Bob McCoy, Justice Bill Meier, and Justice Lee Gabriel.