IDAHO FALLS — The chief executive officer of Idaho health care products maker Melaleuca Inc. is claiming vindication after a state judge dumped claims that it defamed the company's former chief salesman.
Seventh District Judge Greg Moeller issued a summary judgment ending the claims of Jeff Wasden, who had sought relief on grounds he'd been defamed by Melaleuca and its president and CEO, Frank VanderSloot.
The Idaho Falls Post-Register reported VanderSloot feels "vindicated on all accounts" with the decision.
"We won on every single point of fact, so the case is not going to a jury trial," VanderSloot said.
The recent decision is the latest legal setback for Wasden. The courts earlier had ordered him to return more than $240,000 to Melaleuca after violating an agreement to not criticize VanderSloot.
The legal dustup started with Melaleuca's 2007 lawsuit claiming Wasden violated a separation agreement signed after he voluntarily left the company. Melaleuca alleged that Wasden violated the agreement by making disparaging comments about the business.
That led to Wasden's countersuit, in which he claimed VanderSloot defamed him during a March 2007 Melaleuca corporate leadership meeting attended by about 500 people.
But Moeller wrote that statements made by VanderSloot were true and didn't meet the standard of defamation.
"The court finds that VanderSloot's statements accurately set forth the extent and basis of his knowledge at the time he made the statements," Moeller wrote, addressing one of Wasden's claims. "The court concludes as a matter of law that the statements at issue … were not only technically true, but VanderSloot had a reasonable basis for sharing this information."
VanderSloot hopes this ends his legal squabble with Wasden, who sent e-mails and a letter and co-authored a statement to the Idaho Legislature calling VanderSloot hypocritical and accusing him of managing through fear and intimidation.
"It's never fun to be sued and have accusations made against you and your company made public," VanderSloot said this week. "Your reputation is one of your most valuable assets."