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Auto repair chain owners file defamation suits after TV report

Tire Works owners say auto expert’s comments, Web posting hurt business

Updated Wednesday, May 13, 2009 | 12:22 p.m.

The owners of the Tire Works auto repair chain have filed a pair of defamation lawsuits over comments about the company that it says were broadcast by a Las Vegas television station or published on its Web site.

Morpheus Investment Inc., owner of Tire Works Total Car Care, filed one of the suits Monday against a College of Southern Nevada automotive technology expert who participated in an investigation of Tire Works.

That investigation, along with consumer complaints, resulted in a lawsuit filed by the state attorney general accusing the company of deceptive sales practices and seeking to put Tire Works out of business. The company this week filed court papers denying those allegations -- along with a counterclaim alleging wrongdoing by the state and seeking more than $20,000 in damages from the state.

In the defamation lawsuit, Tire Works noted Robin Roques, director of the automotive technology department at CSN, worked on the investigation with television station KTNV and the state Division of Consumer Affairs. After inspecting a vehicle, he took it to several Tire Works locations to have it checked for problems.

Roques, according to the Clark County District Court lawsuit filed by Tire Works, told KTNV that Tire Works' recommendation of services to be performed on the vehicle amounted to "fraud.''

"It's fraud, OK. They're selling stuff that is unneeded services and they're just taking money from the public and giving the auto repair industry a bad name,'' Roques told the TV station, according to the lawsuit.

Tire Works complained in its suit that Roques "profited from his false and defamatory statement, having been paid by the division and/or KTNV-TV outlet for his statement.''

Tire Works charged that Roques' comment was intended to interfere with its business operations and that it has lost significant revenue as a result of his statement.

Roques could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

KTNV is not a defendant in either suit.

In the second suit, Tire Works owners Roshie Weightman and Jeff Weightman say they were defamed when someone named "Jacob'' posted a comment on the KTNV Web site about one of the station's stories about their business.

The Weightmans said in their lawsuit that Jacob, who has not been identified but purported to be a former employee, posted false comments including: "The owners of the company Roshie and Jeff Weightman are ... drug abusers. I know for a fact Jeff Weightman is known to partake in cocaine. ... Also, upon quitting, they stole my toolbox full of tools and kept my last check.''

The Tire Works owners charged these comments are false, were intended to interfere with its business, cost the company one substantial customer that would regularly spend more than $100,000 with their business and caused developers and banks to stop working with the Weightmans on plans for four additional auto repair locations.

The Weightmans said KTNV requires people commenting on stories on its Web site to register, but claim KTNV has refused to identify Jacob. The Weightmans' attorneys, who are with the firm Gordon Silver, said they intend to subpoena KTNV for that information.

The state's lawsuit against Tire Works is pending in Clark County District Court.

When the suit was filed, Roshie Weightman told KTNV in a statement: "Our company will be happy to address any concerns the AG's office may have, and we are confident that our business practices are fully in alignment with our business philosophy to treat our customers with the utmost respect and to assist them in getting the highest performance and longest life out of their vehicles."

The state lawsuit, based on both the sting investigation and consumer complaints that had been filed with the state, accused Tire Works of wrongdoing at 11 of its 13 locations. Tire Works was accused of:

• Misrepresenting a connection or association with a national automotive repair chain

• Misrepresenting that parts and services were of a particular standard, quality, or grade when they were not

• Advertising goods or services with the intent not to sell them as advertised

• Making false or misleading statements of fact concerning the price of goods for sale

• Fraudulently altering a written statement of charges or other document in connection with the sale of goods and services

• Making false representations in sales transactions

• Stating that services, replacement parts or repairs were needed when they were not

• Failing to make delivery of goods or services within a reasonable time or to provide refunds

• Failing to restore payments made for transactions subsequently rescinded

• Failing to disclose material facts in connection with a sale

• Failing to make repairs in accordance with manufacturer specifications

• Failing to deliver all parts and accessories replaced

• Improperly detaining a motor vehicle to enforce payment

• Adding charges to customer invoices for services that were not authorized or obtained

• Engaging in false and deceptive advertising

• Failing to register with the DMV for authorization to operate a garage

• Failing to post a bond with the DMV

In a Monday court filing, Tire Works disputed the state's claims. Tire Works said the state bases the majority of its case on 23 consumer complaints.

"It is astonishing that the Division (of Consumer Affairs) did not disclose or discover that many of the 23 complaints on file with the Division have been resolved by the Division in Tire Works' favor following the Division's investigation and adjudication process,'' Tire Works said in its response. "Some of these same complaints were subsequently adjudicated in the Nevada judicial system, with Tire Works prevailing on all but one.''

Tire Works also complained about the involvement of KTNV in the state's investigation.

"The Division partnered with Channel 13, a media outlet that sells its ad time, in conducting its official investigation of Tire Works, and permitted Channel 13 to run video from the hidden camera investigation in its story aired to the public at large, even though the investigation was undertaken by the Division in its official and statutory investigatory capacity, which should include the right to due process by all parties involved, and should include the ethical duty to conduct official investigations with the decency and decorum that a state agency should exhibit,'' Tire Works said.

"The Division violated those rules by permitting a news channel to submit to the public evidence that the Division utilized as a basis for the underlying Complaint, which evidences the Division's true desire to punish Tire Works in the court of public opinion well before Tire Works can defend itself in a court of law and equity,'' the company charged.

Tire Works said that with its investigation and lawsuit seeking to put Tire Works out of business, the state has harmed the company's business prospects and Tire Works is now seeking more than $20,000 in exemplary and punitive damages from the state.

"The wrongful acts by the Division have caused serious and substantial harm to Tire Works, such that any prospective business advantage that Tire Works anticipated has now been lost,'' the company charged in its counterclaim.

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