A city jury sided with a Maryland Transit Administration dispatcher in his lawsuit that accused the president of his local union of spreading false rumors that he stole money and “had to go” as the local’s elected treasurer.
William T. Lovelace, the former treasurer of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1300, was awarded $335,000 in compensatory damages after a jury trial in Baltimore City Circuit Court.
Lovelace sought $1 million in compensatory and $3 million in punitive damages for defamation. Named in the lawsuit are Local 1300 and its president and business agent, David McClure.
The trial started on April 30 and ran through May 3 in Baltimore City Circuit Court. In addition to compensatory damages, the jury awarded $7,500 in punitive damages against McClure and $82,500 in punitive damages against Local 1300.
In the May 18 order entering the judgment, though, Judge Marcus Z. Shar only included the $335,000 award. Lovelace’s lawyers, Paul Evelius and Jason Potter with Wright, Constable & Skeen LLP in Baltimore, filed a post-trial motion on May 21 to correct the judgment.
Evelius said Lovelace was still a union member.
“He feels vindicated by the jury’s verdict,” Evelius said.
In addition to the verdict, a Nov. 29, 2011, summary judgment ruling by the court established that it was “undisputed that [Lovelace] has never stolen from the union.”
McClure did not return calls for comment. He has been president of the local since 2007 and is now in his second term.
Local 1300 has more than 3,000 members, who primarily work for the Maryland Transit Administration providing transit, paratransit, school bus, commuter, shuttle, and intercity transportation services. It is one of 267 local unions in 46 states that make up the 120-year-old Amalgamated Transit Union.
Lovelace claims that more than two dozen slanderous statements were made to union members and other union officials starting in 2007.
In the first incident, according to the lawsuit, McClure told union members at a general meeting that Lovelace had been stealing union funds. In April 2009, McClure told another union member that Lovelace had been stealing from the union and using member dues to pay for family vacations.
According to the lawsuit, McClure on other occasions told members that Lovelace had taken amounts ranging from $2,000 to $10,000. Lovelace said the false allegations were usually followed up with a statement by McClure that Lovelace should not be reelected as treasurer of the local. In one instance, McClure reportedly told two union members that Lovelace “had to go” as the union’s treasurer.
Lovelace alleged that the multiyear smear campaign ultimately succeeded. When the union held its elections for officers in June 2010, he did not win reelection. His lawsuit, filed that September, blamed the defamatory statements for the loss.
On May 11, McClure and the union filed post-trial motions seeking a new trial or to have the judgment altered.
LOVELACE V. MCCLURE, ET AL.
Baltimore City Circuit Court
Marcus Z. Shar
Jury verdict for plaintiff, $335,000
Suit filed: Sept. 1, 2010
Trial: April 30, 2012-May 3, 2012
Verdict: May 3, 2012
Paul Evelius and Jason Potter with Wright, Constable & Skeen LLP in Baltimore.
Eugene I. Glazer for McClure; Paul Douglas Starr and Helene Victoria Hedian, both with Abato, Rubenstein and Abato, P.A. in Baltimore, for ATU Local 1300.