Lawsuit Dropped Against VHCA Board Member
As previously reported, VHCA Board Member and Planning Committee co-Chair Winnie Currie was sued in December 1999 in Fulton County Superior Court by various owners of The Dark Horse Tavern, Neighbor’s Pub and the Urban Market, including Douglas F. Landau. The lawsuit claimed that Ms. Currie made “false and disparaging statements about Mr. Landau and/or Mr. Landau’s Companies” that constituted libel and slander when she sent letters to the City of Atlanta police and zoning officials questioning compliance with the city’s alcoholic beverage and zoning ordinances. The lawsuit sought an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages, costs and attorneys fees. The VHCA has fully supported Winnie and has paid a portion of her legal fees to help defend her against these unfounded claims, and Winnie convinced her homeowners insurer to absorb the balance of the costs. A copy of the complaint is on the VHCA website at https://vahi.org/about.htm .
Winnie Currie has raised a family of five and lived in Virginia-Highland since 1969 and she has been a board member of the VHCA since 1993. For years, Winnie has served as the VHCA’s watchdog for parking and zoning issues, and has served the neighborhood very well to help balance the interests of the commercial establishments we enjoy against the quality of life we demand in our neighborhood. Winnie was instrumental in protecting the neighborhood against the Cotton Club, the Colgate Mattress Company Warehouse mega entertainment complex on Ponce Place, and in pressuring the City to enforce City ordinances applicable to the building formerly known as “the Alley” on North Highland. She has also represented the neighborhood’s interests in countless other zoning, parking and alcohol license issues that don’t make the headlines but have a direct impact on our quality of life. As a result of her efforts, she is not always popular with commercial establishments in the neighborhood. Restaurant and bar owners have occasionally sought to quiet her to avoid questions about their compliance with parking and zoning requirements that cost them money but protect our quality of life.
In November 2000, Winnie’s homeowner insurance carrier, which has footed a significant portion of Winnie’s legal expenses, informed Winnie that it had agreed to settle the lawsuit by paying $20,000 to the plaintiffs. Although Winnie and the VHCA feel that Winnie would have been fully vindicated in a trial, the legal costs of continuing the case were too burdensome to our limited budget and to her insurance carrier’s willingness to proceed. In the settlement, Winnie admitted no guilt and did not release the plaintiff’s from her claims that the suit violates the Georgia anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) laws. Over the past year, the VHCA paid $18,496 to Winnie’s lawyers to defend her case. The plaintiff’s are believed to have spent almost $100,000 pursuing their claims against Winnie.
The VHCA continues to maintain that the lawsuit against Winnie Currie was frivolous and unfounded and is proud to have supported a tireless neighborhood watchdog against a well-funded bar owner. We encourage you to share your thoughts on this case with us at any neighborhood meeting (7:30 pm, first Wednesday of every month at the Ponce Library) or by e-mail to email@example.com. We will also continue to accept donations to the VHCA to help recover the funds spent to defend against this case.
Thank you for your continued support.
Virginia-Highland Civic Association