Monday, June 18, 2012
Bat World Sanctuary in Mineral Wells wins $6.1 million judgment
A disgruntled ex-volunteer alleged misdeeds, but the judge ruled in the sanctuary's favor.
Have you heard about this? A well-known and well-respected North Texas bat rescue and sanctuary has been under fire from a disgruntled ex-volunteer for years. Mary Cummins, posing as a whistle-blower, has been alleging all kinds of misdeeds by the sanctuary since leaving her internship there in 2010. Most rational people I talked to thought it was all lies and craziness, but Cummins never let up. Until today, when a judge awarded the bat sanctuary $6.1 million in damages.
Here’s the press release, in its entirety from Bat World:
Bat World Sanctuary, an international non-profit organization devoted to rescuing and rehabilitating bats, and its president, Amanda Lollar of Mineral Wells, were awarded $6.1 million in damages by a Tarrant County district judge today in a defamation lawsuit. After a four-day trial, the court found that Mary Cummins of Los Angeles, California had committed defamation against Amanda Lollar and had breached her internship contract with Bat World Sanctuary.
In 2010, Mary Cummins was accepted for an internship at Bat World Sanctuary in Mineral Wells. While at Bat World, she became dissatisfied with the program and left the internship early. According to the plaintiffs, she went back to California and began posting “horrific allegations of animal cruelty against Amanda Lollar on the internet.” She accused Amanda Lollar of performing “illegal surgeries” on bats without anesthesia, possessing and distributing controlled substances without a DEA license, throwing dead bats in the trash, allowing interns to be repeatedly bitten by rabid bats, breeding bats illegally, giving human rabies vaccinations to interns, and neglecting her pet dogs. She filed reports of animal cruelty with numerous wildlife and conservation organizations as well as humane and animal welfare organizations. She also complained to a foundation that had been providing funding to Bat World but stopped doing so after receiving Cummins’ complaint. She filed complaints with the Texas Department of Health, the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Texas Attorney General, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the USDA, the Mineral Wells Police Department, the Mineral Wells Fire Department, the Palo Pinto District Attorney, and other agencies. According to Eric Shupps, the plaintiff’s expert on information technology, Cummins used “search engine optimization” and “Google bombs” to spread her defamation far and wide across the internet.
Judge William Brigham, who was the visiting judge in the 352nd District Court of Tarrant County, announced at the conclusion of the trial that Amanda Lollar is world-renowned and is to bats what Jane Goodall is to primates. He said that Mary Cummins’ defamation of Amanda Lollar was “intentional, malicious, and egregious” and ordered her to pay $3.0 million in compensatory damages and $3.0 million in punitive damages. He also ordered her to pay $10,000 for breach of her contract with Bat World and $176,700 in attorney’s fees.
Lollar’s attorney, Randy Turner with the firm, Bailey & Galyen, said “this judgment sends a powerful message to cyber-stalkers and others who use the internet to harass people or to harm their reputations. Innocent victims like Amanda Lollar often don’t have the resources, expertise, or ability to defend themselves against such vicious internet attacks. Hopefully this judgment will make someone think twice before engaging in an internet smear campaign.”
With determination, strong will, and the help of an attorney who has never lost an animal rights case, Lollar has won the fight and can now get on with what she does best – helping bats. “I would like to thank everyone who stood by us during this ordeal and never, ever lost faith in us. Turner and his paralegal, Kelly Bozeman, worked tirelessly for us and we couldn’t have won without them. I will be forever grateful,” said Lollar.
Bat World Sanctuary is a non-profit organization founded in 1994 by Amanda Lollar. Bat World Sanctuary is accredited by the American Sanctuary Association and verified by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.Learn more about Lollar and her work by visiting her website at www.BatWorld.org.
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