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Owner of car dealership labeled “Taliban Toyota” wins millions

3 November 2011 General 5 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

By Kelli Dugan

(Reuters) – The owner of a large southwest Alabama car dealership derided as “Taliban Toyota” by a competitor has been awarded $7.5 million in damages after a jury trial for his slander claim.

Iranian-born Shawn Esfahani, owner of Eastern Shore Toyota in Daphne, Alabama, sought $28 million in compensatory and punitive damages from Bob Tyler Toyota, claiming employees at that Pensacola, Florida-based dealership falsely portrayed him as an Islamist militant to customers.

“The feeling I received in the courtroom for the truth to come out was worth a lot more than any money anybody can give me,” Esfahani told Reuters on Tuesday.

Esfahani’s lawsuit said that Bob Tyler sales manager Fred Kenner told at least one couple considering buying from Eastern Shore Toyota in 2009 that Esfahani was of Middle Eastern descent and was “helping fund the insurgents there and is also laundering money for them.”

Esfahani, a naturalized U.S. citizen, fled his native Iran in 1980 following the Islamic revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah and swept Shi’ite Muslim clergy to power, his lawsuit said. He opened his car dealership in 2007.

The Taliban, by contrast, are hardline Islamists in the central Asian nations of Afghanistan and Pakistan who follow an austere interpretation of Islamic law.

A Bob Tyler salesman was accused of telling the same couple that Esfahani was from Iraq and calling him a “terrorist” who put soldiers including the salesman’s brother in harm’s way.

“(Esfahani) is funneling money back to his family and other terrorists. I have a brother over there and what you’re doing is helping kill my brother,” the salesman told the couple when he called them on the Eastern Shore sales floor, according to the suit.

The jury deliberated for three hours before awarding Esfahani $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages on Monday evening.

Bob Tyler’s attorney Jeffrey Ingram could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, and Tyler and Kenner both declined to comment on the verdict through a dealership spokesman.

Esfahani said the dollar amount awarded by the jury was irrelevant unless the case sets a precedent by which other business owners can seek recourse against tactics he considers “un-American.”

“This case didn’t take aim at just Mr. Tyler,” he said. “It was intended to address any other business that resorts to those kinds of actions to win at their game unfairly.”

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Johnston)

Original post: Owner of car dealership labeled “Taliban Toyota” wins millions


  1. Poor guy. Glad the other car dealership got what was coming to them.

    Though it is a tad ironic that the bad guy was a car dealer! (Meant in jest, promise.)

  2. Good news, I’m glad he got some justice for what was done to his business and self. Slander is not free speech. You don’t have the right to defame someone and their business! In the minds of the people who did this to him, they thought they had a right to say whatever they wanted about this man because he is Iranian. In their minds it was ok, because they thought of him as a lesser person. It just shows you how since 9/11 some people in American society think that open bigotry against Muslims and Middle Eastern people is “patriotic” when it is anything but. This sort of bigotry has become socially acceptable in some parts of society. People think they can say anything they want about people just because they are foreign-born, Middle Eastern, or Muslim. I personally blame the media and Hollywood for this attitude, they have been demonizing and dehumanizing Middle Eastern people (except Israelis of course) for decades.

  3. I am thrilled justice is served, long live the United states of America!

  4. Yes, he was slandered ( so says the court) but the penalty is absolutely outrageous. One day, down the road will anyone be surprised to see a different version of the truth uncovered?

  5. Yeah, anonymous; I’ll be surprised. Your comment is a snide assertion that since the plaintif is Iranian he probably is a terrorst supporter after all. Guess that’s why he left Iran when the Islamists took over. That in itself is a lot more logic than you care to offer. Meanwhile, I think there’s a car dealer out there – the defendant – that would have millions in motivation to offer decent contradictory evidence. They haven’t. And nice guts – hiding behind anonymity.
    A proud American who is proud of my fellow Americans, wherever they come from.

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