Feed the Children founder's son loses appeal in defamation case

Allen Jones sued sister and five directors of Oklahoma City-based Feed The Children.
BY NOLAN CLAY Modified: November 11, 2010 at 9:14 am •  Published: November 11, 2010

A federal appeals court has ruled against the son of Feed The Children founder Larry Jones.

Allen Jones filed a federal defamation lawsuit in May 2009 against his sister and five directors of the Oklahoma City-based charity.

An Oklahoma City federal judge later dismissed the lawsuit and then refused to reconsider that dismissal. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld the refusal to reconsider.

In the lawsuit, Allen Jones complained his sister, Larri Sue Jones, lied to directors at an April 2008 board meeting. She told them Allen Jones "had been diagnosed as bipolar," according to his lawsuit. Larri Sue Jones was then the charity's general counsel. She has since been fired.

Allen Jones said he was damaged because of media coverage after the directors used the minutes as evidence in their lawsuit over control of the charity. He noted The Oklahoman put the evidence online. He was not suing the newspaper.

The appeals court agreed his suit was properly dismissed because, under state law, parties and witnesses cannot be sued for defamation over relevant communications "made during or preliminary to judicial proceedings." Allen Jones argued for a rethinking of this doctrine because media can post entire court documents.

The appeals judges agreed "this doctrine may prove unwieldy in the digital age," but said, "We are not at liberty to change applicable state law or to ignore it and adopt a different approach."

Allen Jones was not employed by the charity. Feed The Children has accused him in an Oklahoma County lawsuit of stripping materials from a charity food distribution warehouse in Elkhart, Ind.

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