When CPA testifies for spouse in divorce proceedings, dentist proceeds to defame him online. CPA says it cost him clients and profits.
- Case Name: Creal v. Nasiri
- Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / YC072653
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, March 30, 2022
- Date Action was Filed: Thursday, February 01, 2018
- Type of Case: Defamation
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Deirdre Hill
Plaintiffs: Kenneth L. CrealKenneth L. Creal, an Accountancy Corporation
Defendants: Amitiss Nasiri (also known as Amitiss Ansari, also known as Amitiss Nasiri Ansari)
- Type of Result: Bench Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $1,598,000
Award as to each Defendant:
$1,598,000 as to defendant Nasiri.
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 16 days
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Plaintiffs' motion for attorneys fees under CCP § 2033.420 granted in the amount of $358,365. Defendant's motion for new trial and motion to set aside and vacate judgment were denied.
Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Attorney for the Plaintiff:
De Castro & Morrow, LLP by David M. De Castro and Arthur D. Morrow, Woodland Hills.
Attorney for the Defendant:
Warriner, Green & Riley, LLP by Rhett Phillip Warriner, Los Angeles (for trial only).
Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):
Henri Isenberg, social media and internet.
Kim Onisko, economic damages.
Defendant's Technical Expert(s):
Robert J. Fisher, defamation.
Robert H. Farias, economic damages.
Facts and Background
Facts and Background:
Plaintiff is a licensed Certified Public Accountant in good standing and has been a CPA since January 1978. He sometimes acts as an expert witness in wage and hour cases and family law matters.
Defendant Nasiri is a licensed dentist who operates a dental practice in Santa Ana. Defendant Nasiri was going through a divorce. Defendant Nasiri’s ex-husband hired plaintiff Creal as an expert witness in that divorce action. While plaintiff Creal was providing expert services to defendant’s ex-husband, defendant began posting false and defamatory statements about plaintiff Creal on Creal’s Yelp page and other sites.
The statements Nasiri made on Yelp included the following: • “My tax return was Manipulated and $69000 was refunded from IRS without my consent...”; • “Which I heard Mr. Creal took 20%” of that since he was the accountant”; • “That's fraud”; • “He has been helping in creating unreported income for the two businesses”; • “This man followed me today to my attorneys [sic] office”; • “I think he was damaging and touching my car”; and • “Later I found out that he also was actually covering the cameras in order to hurt me.”
Over the next several months, defendant continued to add to the Yelp post. For example, she posted several modified photographs of plaintiff Creal with the following captions: • “Was stalking and sexually harassing me” and • “Mr. Creal is trying to Damage [sic] and touch my car.” Defendant Nasiri also posted on Creal’s Yelp page a photo of someone else’s criminal judgment with the name and date redacted. Defendant repeatedly added different captions to the photo of the criminal judgment, such as “Convicted Felon” and “Convicted felons for CONSPIRACY and FRAUD.”
In all, defendant made over 20 different posts on Yelp with false and defamatory statements. Before defendant's Yelp posts, plaintiff had five-star reviews on Yelp. Plaintiff could not remove defendant’s posts because Yelp does not allow the business owner to remove posts. And Yelp refused to remove the posts despite plaintiff's multiple requests.
It wasn’t until late March of 2019 (approximately 15 months after the lawsuit was filed) that defendant finally took down the Yelp posting.
Plaintiff Creal contended that the statements defendant made against him and his firm were false and defamatory. Plaintiff never performed any work for defendant, so he could not have “manipulated” her tax returns. Plaintiff Creal never covered cameras, followed, stalked or harassed defendant. Plaintiff Creal never touched, let alone damaged defendant's car. And certainly, plaintiff Creal was not a felon. Plaintiff Creal further contended that the Yelp posts were widely visible to prospective clients, and that the posts harmed Creal’s reputation, and caused prospective clients to choose a different CPA. Plaintiff Creal further claimed that Creal’s business growth was significantly reduced.
Creal introduced a social media/internet expert who demonstrated that the Yelp posts were easily visible and likely seen by anyone searching for Creal on the internet. Creal also introduced evidence that for the five years before the false Yelp postings, Creal’s business had shown an average growth of 11% per year. After the defamatory Yelp statements were posted, Creal’s growth completely stalled.
Plaintiff also introduced the expert testimony of a forensic CPA, who established that but for the Yelp posts, Creal’s firm would have generated several hundred thousand dollars in revenue during the time the posts were on Yelp. Creal’s expert also testified that because clients typically continue working with a CPA for years, Creal would suffer damages into the future. Overall, the expert calculated Creal’s economic damages to be $1,318,210. The Court awarded $1,318,000.
Defendant contended that the statements were true, that plaintiffs' damages were speculative, and that plaintiffs failed to mitigate their damages.
Injuries and Other Damages
Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
Creal alleged that he suffered loss of reputation, shame, mortification and hurt feelings as a result of the defamatory posts, and requested $250,000.
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff §998 Demand: $799,999.99