Former tennis coach submits a lawsuit alleging defamation.
Ron Landfair filed a lawsuit against Lansing Catholic High School, its principal Doug Moore, the Catholic Diocese of Lansing and Bishop Earl Boyea for “defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.” Landfair is a former tennis coach at the school and claims he’s struggled to find employment because it “sent misleading messages to parents after he retired.” The issue at the center of the suit is the school told parents Landfair was “let go” rather than telling them he retired.
A letter from Landfair’s attorney, Karen Lopez, to Moore also includes snippets of other messages to parents and contends these communications “would lead them to believe the school fired Landfair for misconduct.” The former coach didn’t learn about the messages for months.
Landfair worked for the Catholic Diocese of Lansing for nearly two decades and was the head boys’ varsity tennis coach at Lansing Catholic High School for more than ten years. He retired in 2017.
In late 2018, Landfair learned about a message sent to “Tennis Parents” which read he “was let go after an incident which we deemed inappropriate,” according to the complaint. Lanfair “also learned about separate messages to parents warning them of unprofessional and inappropriate texts from ‘an adult to a student,’” according to the letter from Lopez to Moore.
“While the latter does not identify Mr. Landfair, these subsequent communications coupled with the falsity that Mr. Landfair had been fired, surely suggest that he was fired for misconduct, which was not the case,” that letter reads. The coach said he has “well documented in…employment records that he retired” including a letter from the diocese’s director of human resources that reads, “This letter is written to confirm your retirement date within the Dioceses of Lansing effective today, October 16, 2017.”
Landfair said that message has “affected his attempts to find another job and led directly to alienation in his profession,” humiliation and “anxiety and depression from having been placed in a false light professionally,” the complaint reads. It continues, “These reckless, callous statements have undoubtedly and significantly worsened (Landfair’s) chances of obtaining any sort of part-time or full-time re-employment in the Lansing community.”
The defendants deny making “reckless or callous statements” in their answer to the lawsuit and add that the statement Landfair is disputing, “when understood in context, was substantially true when made.”
Tom Meagher, attorney for the diocese and Lansing Catholic High School, said the suit lacks merit. “He said he was intentionally defamed. We don’t think that’s the case.”
“Mr. Landfair retired with a superior record,” said Landfair’s attorney, Karen Lopez. “He had an excellent record, yet they put out this defamatory message that somehow he had been ‘let go.’ That implies he was fired. He wasn’t fired. He retired.”
Landfair and his attorney state the communications have caused “emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, depression and has undoubtedly worsened any possible prospects for future employment.” They are demanding an “immediate retraction and correction communication” to the “Tennis Parents” who received the initial message along with “an apology for the error.”