On May 2, 2017 Military with PTSD Inc (MPI), along with Co-Founders Shawn and Justin Gourley, filed a Federal Lawsuit (link) in the United States District Court Southern District of Indiana against Karen Sabourin and Prolympian International (Defendants) alleging that the Defendants made damaging false and misleading statements about Plaintiffs. On February 12, 2018 the court conducted a prove-up hearing (link) to determine the amount of damages and to establish the truth of Plaintiff’s allegations. The court entered it’s ruling in favor of MPI and Shawn and Justin Gourley (Plaintiffs), on May 8, 2018.
Federal Lawsuit Ruling
Below is a summary of the judgment starting with Count 4 Defamation; including screen shots of the judgment. The entire court entry from May 8, 2018 can be found here: MWPTSD Judgment Ruling
(For a Plaintiff to win in a Defamation lawsuit, the Plaintiff has to prove 1: That the statement made is false, and 2: The statement was published to a third-party. More here.)
As evidenced on page 3 of the ruling: “Defendants began posting false and misleading statements about Shawn and Justin”. Defendants have made statements that:
- “MPI is a “fraud,”
- “Justin committed “stolen valor” by misrepresenting his military service for purposes of personal monetary gain,”
- “Shawn demanded $459,000 for access to MPI’s members,”
- “Justin and Shawn have lengthy criminal histories and have defrauded others for personal gain.”
The court referenced these statements two different times in the judgment seen below:
While the court addresses the statements above in the May 8, 2018 judgement, the court references Shawn Gourley’s affidavit submitted to the court on January 4, 2018. In Shawn’s affidavit, #5 directly points to other defamatory statements in an August 21, 2017 letter from defendant Sabourin to the court. (Included in the letter, the defendant also sent the initial summons herself.) In particular, the reference in the letter to the court on page 2 “that multiple state attorney’s have forbidden the charity to collect funds in their state (29 to be exact)”. MPI was never forbidden to collect funds in 29 states as alleged by the defendant. In 2017 the registration process in 3 states, California, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, was delayed due to situations beyond MPI control at that time. Since the hearing in 2018, MPI is in good standing in California and North Carolina.
The August 21, 2017 letter from the defendant to the court also makes multiple allegations towards the Gourley’s in reference to their personal finances and management of MPI funds. For example, “Neither the woman, or her husband, work a regular job. And the declared earnings of their charity would not support their mortgage payments; nor their daily lifestyles. My private detective did not find any other source of income into the household other than a questionable disability pension”. As Military with PTSD Inc. financial records show that at the end of 2017, Military with PTSD Inc. expenses were $28,089 more than the total revenue for 2015-2017 combined with Total Liabilities of $30,040. As evidenced at the hearing, The Gourley’s have loaned Military with PTSD over $30,000 in the last 2 years.
Count 2-Copyright Act Violations
Witnesses at the prove-up hearing testified that on at least two separate public occasions, the defendant told conference attendees, Plaintiff’s Shawn’s story from Plaintiff’s copyrighted book in reference to the Gourley’s struggles living with PTSD and the effect on their family (page 8).
In the May 8,2018 judgment, the court highlights :”Plaintiffs have a registered copyright in the War at Home. Sabourin read substantial portions of the War at Home at recruitment meetings across the country as well as on social media. These were public performances and were not authorized by Plaintiffs. Prolympian directly profited from Sabourin’s infringement by receiving fees from potential coaches.”
Count 1-False Advertising under the Lanham Act
Defendants represented that they had a business relationship with MPI through its marketing materials and during its recruitment events (page 6). Defendants recruited individuals who paid $997 to allegedly receive training on the Defendants “technique” to treat allegedly PTSD. These individuals were promised entry into a directory to advertise treatment for individuals with PTSD. Witnesses testified that Defendants referred to a “military contract” with a certain nonprofit group founded by a military couple. The purported “military contract” was to supply individuals with clients who would be referred to the directory from Military with PTSD and who pay the individuals for “treatment”. These statements were false and misleading. At no time was there a contract between Defendants and Plaintiffs to supply clients.
On June 25, 2018 the court entered final judgment on the federal lawsuit in favor of Plaintiff’s against Defendants.