CHURCH HILL - ICG/Holliston Mills Inc., which has a plant in Church Hill, filed a lawsuit last week in Hawkins County Circuit Court against the unknown person responsible for sending phony press releases via e-mail stating that the company was preparing to file for bankruptcy.
The suit, which was filed Thursday in Rogersville, seeks undetermined damages against the "John Doe/Jane Doe" responsible for sending seven bogus e-mail press releases beginning March 6 and continuing until March 28.
The e-mails represented that they were press releases from the company and stated that ICG/Holliston was preparing to file for bankruptcy in early April.
On the night of March 27 the Times-News received such an e-mail and immediately contacted ICG/Holliston CEO Lawrence Maston, who said it was untrue.
Maston wouldn't comment about the lawsuit when contacted Friday, but last month Maston told the Times-News, "It's a phony e-mail address. We want to get a warrant for Yahoo.com and the server that this is coming from so we can get disclosure on who this is coming from. We are in the middle of a transaction that will refinance the company, and that e-mail is just extraordinarily harmful. There's no truth to it at all. This person has sent several e-mails of this nature, and this is the worst of them."
The lawsuit alleges that the unknown person or persons has sent the false e-mails to ICG/Holliston customers, potential investors and the media with the intention of damaging the company's business reputation.
Earlier this month, another company that does business with Holliston Mills contacted the Times-News asking if there was any record of the company filing bankruptcy and learned that there was none.
Holliston Mills has been granted an order permitting discovery of the defendant's true identity by subpoena from the Internet service provider that was used to send the e-mails - Comcast East Tennessee.
Two names have been used on the e-mails, including Amy Delaney and Will Udoit. Both utilized free e-mail service available from Yahoo to send the messages.
Maston told the Times-News last month the e-mails are probably the product of a disgruntled employee.
The amount of damage caused by the phony e-mails is not yet known, but the lawsuit is seeking punitive damages as well as compensation for damage done "to its business reputation, to its privacy and to its customer and investor relations."
"This case is more than a defamation suit," the lawsuit states. "(The plaintiff) has also alleged a claim for interference with economic relations. (The defendant) sent an e-mail which purported to be a press release issued by the plaintiff. He or she sent it to potential investors and to customers knowing it was false.
"The only possible motive for doing so was to injure the plaintiff's relations with those with whom it does business."
The company's Church Hill plant employs about 300 people and is a leading maker of book cloth used to cover books ranging from best-sellers to textbooks and loose-leaf binders.