Fergus Falls auto dealership sues Twin Cities TV news station, alleging defamation
FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — A Fergus Falls auto dealership has filed a defamation suit against a Twin Cities-based TV news station, alleging that KARE 11 published false and misleading statements in stories about a former dealership employee and claims of overcharging law enforcement agencies.
The suit filed Thursday, Dec. 28, in U.S. District Court by Nelson Auto Center names KARE 11 as a defendant along with related business entities Multimedia Holdings Corp., a South Carolina corporation with offices in McLean, Va., and Tegna Inc., which also has offices in McLean.
One claim made in the suit is that KARE 11 published a story on its website in July saying that Nelson Auto, a vendor that does business with the state of Minnesota, was facing criminal charges in connection with alleged double-billing practices.
The suit says KARE 11 later corrected the story to say that a former employee of the auto center was being charged, but the suit maintains KARE 11 never deleted a Facebook post containing the language of the original story.
The suit also alleges KARE 11 published a lengthy "rehash" story on its website. The suit says that story contained misleading statements that were worded to imply that the dealership was aware of "warnings" and ignored them.
The suit says KARE 11's false and misleading statements damaged the dealership's reputation, and it's seeking more than $75,000.
In a written statement, Brent Nelson, owner of Nelson Auto Center, said that when the dealership became aware of discrepancies in certain business dealings, it immediately put the suspected employee on leave without pay while an audit was conducted.
He said the business also notified any customers potentially affected, as well as the state of Minnesota procurement office.
"It is hard to understand why KARE 11 chose to blow up the issue as a huge news story instead of just coming to us and telling us about it," Nelson said in the statement.
"Apparently they (KARE 11) knew about it for a long time but they failed to tell us about it. When we did find out about the issue we took immediate steps to correct it," Nelson said.
A message left with KARE 11 was not returned Friday, Dec. 29.