We have previously discussed John Freshwater, a controversial teacher in Mount Vernon, Ohio, who used a Tesla coil to brand crosses into the arm of a 7th grade student, here. The family of the student, Zachary Dennis, filed a civil suit against Freshwater and the school district. The school district settled. Freshwater filed a counter-claim asserting defamation and that it was his religious beliefs that were under attack, not the fact that he used a Tesla coil to burn students’ arms. His case had become a lightning rod for conservative Christians and their persecution complex.
On 6 April 2010, the judge issued a summary judgement on certain aspects of the case.
The court agreed with the family and dismissed all claims of defamation, writing that
(1) many of the statements were not made by Plaintiffs, (2) some of the statements are entitled to an absolute privilege, (3) some of the statements are entitled to a qualified privilege, and (4) Freshwater has introduced no evidence that the remaining statements were made with actual malice, which is required because he is a limited purpose public figure.
The court also mooted Freshwater’s counter-claim of emotional distress because that claim was based on the defamation, and without defamation there could be no distress.
The court also ruled that there were disputes of facts, in the parent’s battery claim, which a jury should decide at trial. The outcome of that trial is that the family of the burned student and Freshwater have reached a settlement:
With Judge Hoover’s ruling last Tuesday [23 Nov. 2010] the suit against Freshwater was officially settled. The settlement of $475,000 to the Dennis family includes $25,000 for attorney fees, $150,000 each to Stephen and Jennifer [the parents], and $150,000 to be used for an annuity for Zachary.
-David Drumm (Nal)