Reliance Treatment Centers sues two online critics

HARRISVILLE — Reliance Treatment Centers and its founder and vice president David Zide have filed a lawsuit against two area individuals alleging an online campaign of defamation against the company and its employees.

The civil suit was filed Sept. 11 in Ritchie County Circuit Court by attorney George Cosenza who is representing Reliance and Zide. The suit alleges that beginning in March, Harrisville resident Carol Terwilliger and Robert O. Shepard of Hebron, W.Va., near St. Marys, repeatedly made online allegations of illegal activity against Reliance and its employees.

The Florida-based Reliance is the owner and operator of the recently opened White Oak Run Recovery Center at Mountwood Park in Wood County.

A copy of the suit, provided by Terwilliger and confirmed by Ritchie County Circuit Court, alleges the two defendants posted “defamatory statements” accusing the company and employees of “fraud and other illegal and unethical acts.”

The lawsuit says those statements were false and “were intentional and willful and designed to injure the reputation of the plaintiffs as well as cause them financial harm.”

Reliance and Zide are asking for a temporary restraining order against Shepard and Terwilliger, as well as “a preliminary and permanent injunction to prevent the defendants from continuing to defame them.”

The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as reimbursement for court and attorney fees.

Cosenza declined to comment further Wednesday, saying he and his clients would allow the case to go through the courts.

Shepard has been a vocal advocate for drug treatment and drug enforcement in Wood and surrounding counties and has formed several anti-drug online groups. He also was briefly employed by Reliance as an “ambassador” but a short time later announced online he had terminated his relationship with the company.

Shepard declined to comment Wednesday, saying he would be issuing a statement through his attorney. No statement was made available prior to press time.

Terwilliger, a recovering addict, also has been an advocate of drug treatment and a vocal critic of Reliance’s programs. Terwilliger suffered from an addiction to pain pills and has been sober for two years.

In a written statement Wednesday, Terwilliger questioned why a lawsuit would be filed against her.

“It is beyond my comprehension why a multimillion dollar corporation — David Zide, Reliance, White Oak Run — would bring suit against a 66-year-old recovering addict living on Social Security due to posts on her personal Facebook page with 30 or so Facebook friends,” she said. “In a word: bullies.”

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