Bob Tyler Toyota, a Pensacola, Fla.-based dealership, would now have to pay $7.5 million in damages to a rival car dealership in southwest Alabama, according to the court’s decision on a slander complaint. Iranian-born Shawn Esfahani, who owns Eastern Shore Toyota in Daphne, Ala., had filed a suit asking for $28 million in compensatory and punitive damages from Bob Tyler Toyota whose employees had supposedly referred to his dealership as "Taliban Toyota.” Esfahani asserted that Bob Tyler’s employees told customers that he is an Islamist militant to customers.
The lawsuit alleges that in 2009, at least one couple had been told by Bob Tyler sales manager Fred Kenner that Esfahani was of Middle Eastern descent and was "helping fund the insurgents there and is also laundering money for them.”
According further to the lawsuit, Esfahani is a naturalized U.S. citizen and had departed his native Iran in 1980 after the Islamic revolution that tore down the U.S.-supported Shah and brought Shi'ite Muslim clergy to power.
In 2007, Esfahani opened his car dealership. Esfahani has no ties with the Taliban who are hardline Islamists in the central Asian nations of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The same couple was told by a Bob Tyler salesman that Esfahani hails from Iraq and is a "terrorist" who put the lives of soldiers (such as the salesman's brother) at risk. [source: Autonews]