By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Dale Wamstad, operator and manager of the enormous III Forks restaurant in North Dallas, has sued the Dallas Observer and staff writer Mark Stuertz for libel. In his suit, filed last month, Wamstad claims that the Observer's March 16 cover story, "Family man," misrepresented Wamstad's relationship with his ex-wife Lena Rumore and his adult son Roy Wamstad and published false and defamatory statements by Rumore and others. Wamstad, who declined an interview with the Observer for "Family man," also alleges that the paper defamed him while recounting several business transactions in which he was involved.
Wamstad claims that, "Since III Forks' opening in August 1998, the Observer and Stuertz have exhibited a negative predisposition toward III Forks and Wamstad, showing a pattern of misrepresenting III Forks in general and Wamstad personally." After "Family man" was published, Wamstad claims he "...has been exposed to public hatred, contempt, and ridicule, the burden of which has been shared by his wife and children."
In his suit, Wamstad seeks a judgment of $10 million, which he says he will donate to Southern Methodist University's journalism school "...Consistent with the fact that Wamstad is motivated in this suit not by money but by a desire to restore his reputation and to stop the Dallas Observer and Stuertz before they attempt to maliciously harm other persons..."
"Family man" profiled Wamstad's rise from modest beginnings as a meat cutter to a position at the top of Dallas' cutthroat restaurant market. It also detailed his ex-wife and adult son's allegations in court testimony that he physically abused them -- allegations that Wamstad has denied under oath and in media interviews.