BLOOMINGTON - The husband of a Bloomington woman targeted in a defamation lawsuit filed by officials from a Normal packaging firm said Tuesday that several of the suit's claims misrepresent his wife's character.

James Morris said his wife, Lori Morris, would never make statements about wanting to "take down" Commercial Packaging.

The company, one of its directors and two of its officers filed an $800,000 civil lawsuit against her last week in McLean County. They have accused Lori Morris of making disparaging statements about them and the company following a 2004 fatal airplane crash.

Normal businessman Gary Egbers, founder of Commercial Packaging, and employees Mark Long and Tracy Gibson were among five people killed in the July 18, 2004, crash near an airport in Wheeling, W. Va.

Lori Morris is Egbers' daughter and a minority shareholder in the family's business.

She had accused two Commercial officers and one director of playing some role in the crash, according to the company's lawsuit.

Commericial's current CEO, Aaron Egbers, is Lori Morris' younger brother and had been the target of some of her disparaging statements following their father's death, according to the lawsuit. He is one of the plaintiffs.

Falsifying company expense reports, failing to properly maintain the aircraft and operating an illegal charter service were among the claims Morris has leveled at Aaron Egbers, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says she made such accusations to destroy the company's reputation and steer business to a competing company that employs her husband, who also had worked for the company.

James Morris would not discuss all the details of the lawsuit, but he said Tuesday the courts will decide whether his wife has defamed anyone.

But he said the dispute between Lori Morris and Aaron Egbers began shortly after the plane crash, when company officials asked James Morris to resign as chief strategic officer and vice president of sales management of Commercial Bag and as a director of Commercial Products.

James Morris said he and his wife were not aware of the lawsuit until Monday when they were called by The Pantagraph to respond to the company's accusations.

The couple thought they were in good faith negotiations for Commercial to purchase Lori Morris' 8 percent minority share of Commercial Products and 15.4 percent share of Commercial Bag until they were served with the lawsuit, James Morris said.

"This is a family tragedy," Morris said of the division between his wife and her brother. "All I've asked for is the family to try and work things out. My hope is both parties get together, make a settlement and call a family truce."

James Morris said he believes outside influences - or "people other than family" - are deepening the divide between his wife and her brother.

Dawn Wall, an attorney representing Commercial in the lawsuit, agreed with Morris' assessment that the case is a family tragedy, but said she could not comment on the lawsuit because it's pending litigation.

Wall did say that every decision made by Commercial Packaging, including the filing of the lawsuit, has been to protect the interests of the company.


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