By MARGE WOODFIN
GOLD BEACH A 12-person jury deliberated for about two hours Friday to return a verdict favoring the four defendants in the e-mail defamation case filed by Harbor veterinarian Jeff Tribble.
The suit, filed by Brookings attorney Chris Keusink on behalf of Tribble, charged Brookings-Harbor residents Karolyn Pieren, Ann Forrest, Deanna Swint and Deanna Gill with publishing libelous statements about Tribble by e-mail.
Tribble was seeking damages of $500,000 from Pieren and $250,000 in damages from each of the other three defendants.
Pieren was charged with sending an e-mail to the other three defendants, accusing Tribble, veterinarian and owner of Brookings-Harbor Veterinary Hospital, with abuse of animals and employees.
The other three defendants were charged with forwarding the e-mail to other recipients.
As far as The Pilot has been able to ascertain, this appears to be the first e-mail suit of its kind filed in Oregon.
Officials with the Oregon Attorney Generals office and the Oregon Bar Association were unable to cite any other cases.
In an earlier telephone interview, Jan Margosian of the Oregon Department of Justice said, Ive checked with everyone, even the Internet fraud task force, and it sounds like new ground for them.
In the second amended complaint filed on Tribbles behalf, the charges stated the e-mail contained the following libelous false statements that Tribble:
Abused animals physically by causing them serious physical injury or death.
Killed animals because of his inability to treat them.
While angry, killed a cat.
Holds animals for ransom, without legal authority to do so.
During the trial, which began Tuesday, the jury heard testimony from many witnesses for the plaintiff and the defense.
Pieren was represented by Medford attorneys Timothy Gerking and Mark Weaver. Swints attorney was Joseph G. Schwarte of Eugene. Gill was represented by Medford attorney F. David Ingalls. Forrests attorney was Mark Clarke, also of Medford.
On Friday, the final day of the trial, attorneys presented closing arguments in the morning and the jury received the case following the lunch break at 1 p.m.
The jury asked for clarification on some of the instructions before completing its deliberations and finding the defendants not guilty as charged in the suit.
Tribble and the defendants were unavailable for comment as of late Friday.