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Gaspar’s company sues Roberts over campaign attack ads

REGION — District 3 Supervisor Kristin Gaspar’s physical therapy company has sued former county Supervisor Dave Roberts in Superior Court for libel, accusing him of defamation in connection with a pair of campaign attack ads.

Gaspar narrowly defeated Roberts in a bitter campaign for District 3 supervisor last November.

The lawsuit, which was filed Sept. 6, stems from a pair of ads — one that Roberts’ campaign ran and another that the San Diego Democratic Committee ran — that claimed that Gaspar’s business, Gaspar Doctors of Physical Therapy, was “known for malpractice, elder abuse and negligence” and had “settled a lawsuit compensating victims who sued for malpractice and elder abuse.”

Gaspar Doctors of Physical Therapy was founded by Gaspar’s husband, former Encinitas mayoral candidate Paul Gaspar.

Neither of the Gaspars is listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, rather, the suit lists the business and Brian Stone, a physical therapy doctor mentioned in the attack ads, as plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs are seeking at least $5 million — at least $1 million for each of the five causes of action — as well as attorneys’ fees and other damages. The suit claims libel, negligence and an intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Roberts did not return several calls and text messages to his cell phone seeking comment. Gregory Day, the attorney representing the Gaspar’s company and Stone, declined to comment beyond the details in the lawsuit.

Roberts’ mailers were disseminated to more than 100,000 households in in the district, and the second was distributed after the company issued Roberts’ campaign with a cease and desist letter demanding a retraction.

“To this date, Roberts has never retracted his false defamatory statements, nor apologized for intentionally damaging the reputations of the plaintiffs,” the lawsuit states. “He did not restrict his campaign advertisements to positive messages about himself, or even material allegations against his campaign opponent, Kristin Gaspar. Instead, he intentionally, repeatedly and maliciously defamed Gaspar Physical Therapy, Inc. and Brian Stone.”

The mailers at the center of the lawsuit contained claims that Kristin Gaspar had a “long history of shady business practices,” and that she operated a business known for malpractice, elder abuse and negligence and that Gaspar’s company “broke her patient’s trust.”

The lawsuit claims that Roberts’ staff doubled down on the allegations in an Oct. 29, 2016, column in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Those claims were in reference to a 2006 lawsuit, which according to the lawsuit was a “slip and fall” incident at a public swimming pool area during off-clinic hours.

According to the lawsuit, Roberts’ campaign omitted the factual allegations and details about the settlement that would have shown that the claim was without merit.

This included details about the settlement, which did not include any compensation to the plaintiffs. The offer of compromise included a waiver of costs in exchange for the plaintiff’s dismissing the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, the attack ads portrayed the business as being “known for” such allegations, but both Stone and the business had clean records and “before the defendants herein elected to defame them to hundreds of thousands of persons, they had untarnished reputations.”

The company had only been sued twice, and both cases ended favorably for the company.

Gaspar defeated Roberts, who served one four-year term, by a little more than 1,200 votes, after Roberts led the race on election night. Gaspar and Escondido Mayor Sam Abed, who was eliminated from the Supervisors race after the June primary election, repeatedly criticized Roberts for an office scandal and county policy violations, which cost the county $310,000 last year to settle.

Roberts said during the campaign that he wanted to focus on the good works his office had performed throughout the district.