DAVID A. ESTEPP, JR. APPELLANT
JOHNSON COUNTY NEWSPAPERS, INC., D/B/A THE PAINTSVILLE HERALD APPELLEE
FROM JOHNSON CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE JOHN DAVID PRESTON,
JUDGE ACTION NO. 17-CI-00217
FOR APPELLANT: Mitchell D. Kinner Paintsville, Kentucky
FOR APPELLEE: Jeremy S. Rogers Louisville, Kentucky
BEFORE: ACREE, DIXON AND K. THOMPSON, JUDGES.
THOMPSON, K., JUDGE
A. Estepp, Jr. filed suit against the Johnson County
Newspapers, Inc., d/b/a The Paintsville Herald (the Herald),
arguing he was defamed and the Herald engaged in outrageous
conduct when it used the terms "removed from" and
"relieved of" in news articles referring to him
leaving his employment. Estepp appeals from the judgment of
the Johnson Circuit Court granting the newspaper's motion
for summary judgment and dismissing the case. As the
newspaper did not defame Estepp or engage in outrageous
conduct, we affirm.
was employed as President/General Manager of Big Sandy RECC
(Big Sandy), an electric cooperative. While Estepp was
serving in this position, in January 2017, local resident
George Spriggs began to campaign for a seat on Big
Sandy's Board of Directors. While doing so, according to
Estepp, Spriggs began to circulate a document accusing Estepp
of taking bribes and kickbacks, illegally using FEMA funds,
and improperly using Big Sandy's facilities and
personnel. On February 27, 2017, Estepp sued Spriggs for
defamation. The Herald reported on this lawsuit.
members of the labor union that represented many of Big
Sandy's employees were frustrated with their prior
collective bargaining negotiations. In March 2017, some of
the membership organized a petition calling for the
termination of Big Sandy executives including Estepp and
placed the petition in a local grocery store.
April 10, 2017, Estepp went to the grocery store and removed
the petition. Estepp argues he did so under the belief that
the petition contained defamatory statements about him.
April 12, 2017, the Herald reported that the petition had
been taken from the grocery store and the incident was
recorded on the store's surveillance video. Other news
outlets also published information about the petition's
removal, including video footage which showed Estepp removing
the petition and stuffing it into his back pocket.
April 14, 2017, the Herald reported that the petition was
returned, and the Kentucky State Police had begun an
Estepp left his position as President/General Manager of Big
Sandy. On May 12, 2017, the Herald published a news report
with the headline: "Big Sandy RECC replaces general
manager." The article began:
Big Sandy Rural Electric Cooperative Company (RECC) has
replaced David Estepp with Bobby Sexton as general manager of
Estepp was removed from his position on April 27, as
confirmed by William Maxey, board member for Big Sandy
"Bobby Sexton has been hired to serve as interim general
manager of Big Sandy RECC." said Lance Daniels, RECC
Board Attorney. "David Estepp is no longer general
article had a paragraph discussing Sexton's background
and a paragraph discussing Big Sandy's ...