An Alabama jury has awarded $7.5 million to an Iranian-born car dealer who was slandered by a rival as “Taliban Toyota.”
The settlement is actually significantly less than the $28 million sought by Shawn Esfahani, owner of Eastern Shore Toyota, in Daphne, Alabama. But the naturalized citizen, who fled his native country following the Islamic revolution in 1980 said the more important victory is to take action against tactics he called “un-American.”
The case centered around comments made by a manager at Bob Tyler Toyota, another dealership just over the state line in Pensacola, Florida. According to the lawsuit Esfahani was described as Iraqi – not Iranian – and accused of sending money to Middle East terrorists.
The Florida dealership’s manager, Fred Kenner, reportedly told at least one customer that 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,” a reference to the fact that Kenner’s brother was in the military on assignment in the Mideast.