A Hilton Head Island judge will meet Thursday with representatives of Sea Pines and its former security chief to discuss an appeal of the $6 million award she won against them in 2012.
The mediation is not required, according to Municipal Court Judge Maureen Coffey's attorney, Robert Mathison Jr. However, Coffey, Sea Pines Community Services Associates Inc. and former security chief George Breed all agreed to meet in Columbia to negotiate, Mathison said.
If they do not reach a settlement in the defamation award, attorneys for Coffey, CSA and Breed will present arguments Oct. 7 to the S.C. Court of Appeals, according to court records.
Coffey -- who has recused herself from hearing cases related to Sea Pines, according to Hilton Head assistant town manager Greg DeLoach -- defends the $6 million judgment she received in 2012. In her lawsuit, filed in 2008, the judge said CSA and Breed defamed her by distributing official copies of a judicial complaint against her to town and Sea Pines officials.
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CSA and Breed appealed the judgment in April 2013, arguing they had the right to share the complaint because Coffey is a public official. Attorneys for both losing parties also argue that Judge Carmen Mullen made incorrect decisions during the June 2012 trial that biased the jury, according to court records.
Mathison, who has argued the appellants missed their chance to raise several issues with the trial, said mediation could take several days.
"You don't really know until everyone walks into the room," he said. "I'm hopeful it will work out."
Attempts to reach CSA, Breed, their attorneys and Coffey were unsuccessful. Mathison said he was not sure what kind of settlement CSA and Breed might seek, but he maintains the award was appropriate.
Breed filed a complaint stating Coffey was a pervasively biased judge, though he later said he could not identify any cases in which she acted with bias.
Because of the false statements made against her, Coffey argued, she was incapacitated by migraines, sought treatment from a psychologist and missed out on opportunities to advance in her position, according to the lawsuit.
"It certainly helps to get a judgment, because that's a form of vindication," Mathison said. "Without the judgment, there would be a substantial number of people that would still be believing what Mr. Breed said about (Judge Coffey)."
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.
- Coffey defends $6 million defamation award in appeal response, November 16, 2014
- Sea Pines officials challenge $6M verdict in judge's defamation suit, June 18, 2012
- Hilton Head judge wins $6M in Sea Pines defamation lawsuit, June 6, 2012