Judge dismissed JWC’s defamation lawsuit against former Fairfield councilwoman Bertha Goins

WINNSBORO — A circuit judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit the Jenkinsville Water Company filed against former Fairfield County Councilwoman Bertha Goins.

Meantime, some elements of a countersuit Goins filed are being allowed to move forward.

On March 29, Circuit Judge Brian Gibbons approved a motion for summary judgment filed by Goins’ lawyer seeking dismissal of the JWC suit.

Gibbons then issued a second judgment allowing some allegations in a counterclaim to remain active.

Her counterclaim alleged breach of contract, breach of implied warranty, violation of the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, and unfair trade practices. Those claims were dismissed in Gibbons’ order.

However, the judge is allowing Goins’ other claims of “abuse of process” and “outrage and harassment” to continue, court records state.

“As to the outrage and abuse of process causes of action, the court finds there are genuine issues of material fact and therefore respectfully DENIES the motion,” Gibbons wrote.

A formal order is expected within the next 10 days.

In March 2020, the water company sued Goins in response to several critical comments she made in news stories and at council meetings concerning JWC water quality.

Tommy Morgan, the attorney representing Goins, said his client is pleased the defamation suit has been dismissed.

“As the law makes clear, elected officials such as Ms. Goins need to be able to speak for the people and bring such critical issues as water quality to light on behalf of those who oftentimes do not have a voice,” Morgan said in a statement.

“Ms. Goins is also pleased the Court is allowing her claims against JWC for abuse of process and outrage to go to a jury,” the statement continues. “We feel confident a jury will find JWC’s actions are nothing more than an attempt to silence its critics via the threat of lawsuits instead of using its time and money to actually address possible water quality problems.”

Attorneys for the JWC state Goins engaged in a “public campaign of maliciously attacking JWC by stating that the water produced by JWC is substandard,” according to a memo filed March 22.

“The statements were not made in the discharge of a public duty, but were made with actual malice and/or implied malice and with a reckless disregard for truth of the accusations made, without proof of these accusations, and with the intent to harm the reputation of JWC,” the memo states.

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