Greene County Circuit Court Judge Mark Fitzsimmons ruled that Chris Ames, a salesman in Friendly Ford's truck department, had accused of his boss, Jay Wise of numerous infractions, including sexual battery and retaliatory discharge:
On December 19, 2005, to December 21, 2005, a trial was held only as to Mr. Ames's claims against Mr. Wise and FFI.(FN5) The evidence at trial showed that while in a supervisory capacity over certain FFI employees, Mr. Wise often engaged in "horseplay" with employees, including Mr. Ames, and would strike them on the ear with a plastic comb, referred to as "Mr. Snappy," which caused a "sharp stinging pain." Further, the evidence showed Mr. Wise also pretended to strike Mr. Ames and other employees in the genitals, oftentimes actually making contact with the person's body. Mr. Ames testified he had been hit in the ear by Mr. Wise; that Mr. Wise had attempted to hit him in the genitals numerous times; and that Mr. Wise had actually made contact with his genitals on at least one occasion. Mr. Ames stated that when he was hit in the genitals it "sometimes" hurt. Mr. Ames also testified that on one occasion Mr. Wise snuck up behind him and "spit a little bit of water and ice down the back of . . ." his shirt. He related that Mr. Wise said something to him that "involved cold and cum and how did [he] like it or something like that." He likewise set out that Mr. Wise's actions made him feel embarrassed, humiliated, and intimidated. He testified that when he would see Mr. Wise approach him he would often try to leave the room or otherwise remove himself from Mr. Wise's presence. He stated he did not tell his girlfriend about being hit in the genitals because he "didn't want her to think any less of [him]" or think "that [he] couldn't handle [him]self." Mr. Wise did not deny at trial that he engaged in such "horseplay," but testified he never intended to hurt or injure anyone.
At the close of the evidence, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Mr. Ames as against Mr. Wise and set actual damages at $65,000.00.
Another court action came as a result of this lawsuit, as noted in the April 8, 2006, Turner Report:
A Springfield man is suing a lawyer whom he claims provided the Joplin Globe and Springfield News-Leader with false information following a civil suit in Greene County Circuit Court.
It's enough to make Mr. Snappy angry.
Mr. Snappy is the comb that jurors were told Jay Wise of Friendly Ford in Springfield used to reprimand employees who got out of line. According to Jeff Lehr's article in the Dec. 23 Joplin Globe, Mark Bodine, the attorney for the plaintiffs, told Lehr that his client, Chris Ames, and others had testified that Wise liked to "thwack" employees on the ears with Mr. Snappy and he also "was fond of striking Ames and other male salesmen in the truck division of the dealership with a backhand to their genitals."
The information in the Globe story, and apparently information in articles printed in the Springfield News-Leader and Springfield Business Journal, came from Bodine, a partner in the Shawnee, Kan., law firm of Bennett, Bodine and Waters, PA. Lehr's article indicates Bodine gave him the information in a telephone interview.
Wise claims that Bodine provided incorrect information in that interview and in the others given to various media outlets. "Throughout 2001 and continuing into 2006, in the course of representing clients," the lawsuit says, "Bodine falsely and maliciously reported to third persons that Wise engaged in unlawful conduct, namely assault and battery with male employees of FFI, (and) had sexually harassed male employees of FFI, had sexually battered male employees of FFI."
Wise says Bodine's statements "exposed (him) to hatred, contempt and ridicule" in Springfield.
"Co-workers, friends and business associates of Wise heard and read the slanderous and defamatory statements when they were published.."
Another problem, Wise said, were statements such as the one given by Bodine to Lehr that Wise had settled with four of the people who were suing him. "Bodine made other false and misleading statements in the press to further embellish the false and defamatory statements and to give the false impression that Wise had settled four civil suits for assault, battery, sexual harassment and sexual battery when in truth and fact he had not."
Wise claims he has lost income, suffered emotional distress, loss of sleep and loss of reputation. He is seeking more than $75,000, according to the lawsuit.
Wise dismissed the lawsuit in May 2006.