John Garner

Friday, October 29, 2021 // From 11:00am to 2:30pm

Subject: Gundersen v. Edward, Defamation

3 hr Case Analysis


John R. Garner is a business and litigation attorney with over fifteen years of experience advising both individual and corporate clients of all sizes. John has participated in numerous trials and arbitrations, and has familiarity dealing with many arbitration forums including FINRA, JAMS, AAA, as well as experience representing clients during administrative hearings at both the State and Federal levels. John has knowledge in all areas of complex litigation having prosecuted and defended both class actions and mass tort cases. John presently represents a wide range of clients including financial advisors, investment advisory firms, water districts, agricultural associations, farm warehousing and storage facilities, custom farming operations, energy companies, as well as numerous other small and mid-size businesses across the state. A significant portion of John’s practice also involves counseling clients regarding business formation, contract negotiations, intellectual property, real estate transactions, estate planning, and a wide range of other transactions affecting day-to-day business operations.

John began his career in San Diego before relocating back to Sacramento to be nearer to the farming community where he grew up. John devotes his time to various community organizations. John is also an active member of the Anthony M. Kennedy Inn of Court in Sacramento.

Case Analysis Details

“Gundersen v. Edward Jones et al”

Voir Dire, Opening Statement, Closing Argument, & Rebuttal

In December 2014, Dalas Gundersen was terminated from his job at the Edward Jones office in Willows, California. Lisa Rodriguez, another Edward Jones employee, was moved to the Willows office to replace Gundersen.

Soon thereafter, Gundersen began setting up his own financial planning business in the area – hanging out his own shingle. Rodriguez and Edward Jones felt threatened by the competition and decided to do something about it. In the months following, Rodriguez and another Edward Jones employee, Paul Betenbaugh, began a campaign of harassing and defaming Gundersen.

Rodriguez made false statements about Gundersen to his former customers, insinuating that Mr. Gundersen broke the law by embezzling money from customers.

Betenbaugh, who felt that Rodriguez was like a sister to him, began posting ads on Craigslist requesting homosexual dating, including references to pedophilia. The ads listed Gundersen’s name and, despite it being against Craigslist policy, his personal phone number. Gundersen then started to regularly receive lewd photos, messages, and calls at all hours of the day. At the time, Gundersen did not know the source of the ads.

In light of his reputation being slandered throughout the community, thereby destroying the family name he had worked to build, and the constant harassment resulting from the Craiglist ads, Gundersen retained legal counsel, who was able to trace the source of the Craigslist ads to Betenbaugh. Gundersen then filed a lawsuit against Edward Jones, Lisa Rodriguez, and Paul Betenbaugh, alleging internet impersonation, interference with prospective economic relations, unfair business practices, false light, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The matter went to trial in August 2021, at which a jury awarded Gundersen $38 million. The jury awarded an additional amount in punitive damages against Lisa Rodriguez just under $1 million.