A federal judge has ordered a premotion conference after Barnes & Noble attorneys late last week told the court they would move for summary judgment on the two most contentious claims filed by former B&N CEO Demos Parneros in his lawsuit against the retailer—the claims for defamation, and for “breach of good faith.”
In a letter to the court, B&N attorneys revealed that Parneros was seeking “approximately $70 million” in damages for the defamation claim alone, and argued that deciding the fate of these two claims at the Summary judgment stage would “significantly narrow the scope” of any impending trial. B&N attorneys also added that knocking out Parneros’ two major claims via summary judgment would leave only Parneros’s claim that B&N breached his employment contract, for which Parneros, the filing states, seeks “approximately $6.4 million.”
Discovery in the case was to close on October 18, but in a letter last week, judge John G. Koeltl agreed to delay the remaining expert depositions until the court decides the current motion.
In its filing, B&N attorneys claim that summary judgment is appropriate with respect to the two claims “because the undisputed facts require their dismissal as a matter of law.”
Specifically, the attorneys argue that the statements in the company’s July 3, 2018, press release, which stated that Parneros was terminated for “violations of the Company’s policies” and that his termination was “not due to any disagreement with the Company regarding its financial reporting, policies, or practices or any potential fraud relating thereto,” were factually true.
In addition, B&N attorneys claim that the release was not irresponsible, because the record reflects that B&N’s “investigation” of Parneros’ conduct “was conducted in a careful and responsible manner,” and that “the press release was extensively reviewed by the Board and senior management.”
In his bombshell suit, filed in August of 2018, Parneros claims that the allegations of misconduct against him are false, and that former CEO and B&N founder Len Riggio in fact “engineered Parneros's firing without cause” after a potential deal to sell the company fell through, and that B&N's announcement "falsely and irrevocably damaged the reputation Pameros had worked for thirty-five years to build.”
B&N, meanwhile, is countersuing Parneros, alleging that Parneros purposely botched a potential deal for the company in 2018, and that his abusive behavior, including a claim of sexual harassment, violated company policy.
The conference is set for November 4, in New York.