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Lawyer settles defamation case

Richmond personal injury attorney Jay Tronfeld has settled his lawsuit alleging that a Nationwide adjuster defamed him by telling a client that Tronfeld “just takes people’s money.”

The case had been scheduled for trial yesterday in Petersburg Circuit Court, but David P. Baugh, Tronfeld’s attorney, said it was settled under confidential terms.

The adjuster also told the client that Tronfeld’s clients would get more money if they dealt with the adjuster directly rather than hiring Tronfeld. The trial judge ruled that those comments could not be defamatory because they were statements of opinion rather than fact.

The Supreme Court of Virginia disagreed in Tronfeld v. Nationwide. The test for differentiating a statement of fact from opinion is whether the comment can be proved true or false.

Tronfeld should have been allowed to attempt to prove that that he did not take money without providing services and that he obtained more money from clients than the adjuster offered, the court said.

By Alan Cooper

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