Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Executive’s defamation claim tossed

A former executive who said she was defamed by her job performance review has come up empty-handed, after winning one of the largest verdicts in 2005.

Cynthia Hyland had been with defense contractor Raytheon Corporation for 21 years and served as a senior vice president prior to being fired in 2003 after the business unit she led lost money. In 2005, a Fairfax County jury awarded Hyland $3.5 million in a suit alleging the company president made defamatory remarks in Hyland’s performance evaluation.

Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Arthur Vieregg reduced the $2 million punitive damage award to the statutory cap of $350,000, and the case went up on appeal.

In March 2007, the Supreme Court of Virginia reversed Hyland’s $1.85 million award, saying that only two of the five allegedly defamatory statements cited by Hyland could support the jury verdict. The justices sent the case back for another look at the factual accuracy of statements relating to Hyland’s role in the bidding process for two government contacts and her team’s being “off plan” on their financial targets.

Last month, Vieregg granted summary judgment for Raytheon and its president in Hyland v. Raytheon Technical Services, saying Hyland admitted that she oversaw or was the project manager for the two government contracts at issue and was responsible for identified financial losses.

Neither statement identified by the Supreme Court was defamatory, the circuit court said.

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