Defamation Law
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Defamation Law
Curated content on Defamation Law, by Aaron Morris, a free speech, defamation and anti-SLAPP attorney with morris & Stone.
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Bill Cosby sues Beverly Johnson for defamation

Bill Cosby sues Beverly Johnson for defamation | Defamation Law | Scoop.it

"Bill Cosby filed a lawsuit Monday against supermodel Beverly Johnson, alleging she lied when she said the comedian drugged and tried to rape her at his New York home in the mid-1980s.


Cosby's lawsuit says Johnson joined other women making accusations against him to revive her waning career and to help sell copies of her memoir.


The lawsuit alleges defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, saying Cosby and Johnson never spent any time alone in his house, he never drugged her and 'her story is a lie.'"

Aaron Morris's insight:

In an earlier discussion of Bill Cosby, I mentioned the problem of coming out and denying claims made by an accuser.
 

In the case of Bill Cosby, several women have come forward telling similar tales. Specifically, they allege that Cosby would drug and then rape them. Even though the statute of limitations on those alleged offenses may long have passed, Cosby affords those women with a potential cause of action if he comes out and denies the claims. By denying the claims, he is in essence calling them liars, which triggers a potential defamation action.
 

This action is the flip side of that coin. Cosby, of course, has the ability to sue for defamation, claiming that the accusations are false and defamatory. But this strategy comes at a cost. This lawsuit is against Beverly Johnson, but other women are making the same claim. Are we then to assume that the claims by the other women are not defamatory?
 

As the saying goes, "in for a dime, in for a dollar." Cosby has now created a scenario whereby he must sue all of his accusers, lest he be viewed as being guilty of the claims by those he doesn't sue.

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James Woods Demands Court Order To ID Twitter User Who Called Him A "Cocaine Addict"

James Woods Demands Court Order To ID Twitter User Who Called Him A "Cocaine Addict" | Defamation Law | Scoop.it
Actor James Woods says a Twitter user who called him a "cocaine addict" has no right to demand anonymity.
Aaron Morris's insight:

The James Woods case presents a good illustration of the legal process and certain constitutional rights.


Someone on Twitter, using the pseudonym "AL", got into it with Woods, and let fly with a series of put-downs, referring to Woods as a Joke, clown-boy and scum. Counsel for Woods understood defamation law well enough to know that those claims are not offered as verifiable facts, and therefore cannot be defamatory.


But AL also called Woods a "cocaine addict", and that is where his counsel drew the line. They filed what is called a DOE action, suing an unknown defendant for defamation. Once a DOE action is filed, the plaintiff can then subpoena the records (here, from Twitter) to determine the identity of the anonymous poster.


Here's where things get interesting.


What many do not realize is that someone posting comments on the Internet has a constitutional right to remain anonymous. It hearkens back to the days of "pamphleteering", when those disagreeing with the government would produce and distribute anonymous pamphlets. If the government could require that the identity of protesters be known, it could intimidate critics into silence.


Because of this constitutional right, if someone wishes to remain anonymous, they can oppose the motion anonymously, forcing the plaintiff to make a sufficient showing that the speech is defamatory, and therefore not entitled to protection.


That is just what occurred here. AL has gone to court and challenged Woods' right to discover his identity.


"How do you appear anonymously in a court proceeding?", you ask. It's easy. You retain counsel, usually Morris & Stone, who moves to quash the subpoena on behalf of the person, using the pseudonym. The identity of the person is never revealed. (In a couple of cases, we have seen other counsel attempt this procedure, only to make the effort pointless when they accidentally identify their client in correspondence.) 


I have no way of knowing if the author of the article got this particular part right, but Woods' counsel is quoted as saying that the motion should be denied, because "AL has not proved the sort of extraordinary circumstances required to remain anonymous." The circumstances are not at all extraordinary. Since it is a constitutional right, the default is that the person can remain anonymous, and it is the plaintiff that must show otherwise.

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Lying blogger ordered to pay $3.5 million in defamation lawsuit | PersonalInjury.com

Lying blogger ordered to pay $3.5 million in defamation lawsuit | PersonalInjury.com | Defamation Law | Scoop.it
A Shelby County, Alabama, blogger, who spent five months in jail before agreeing to remove stories from his website about the son of a former governor, has now been ordered to pay $3.5 million in a defamation lawsuit filed by a former campaign manager for the state Attorney General.
The blogger had written about an fictional affair between the attorney general and the campaign manager. 
Aaron Morris's insight:

Yes, even  bloggers are subject to defamation laws.


I encounter a common belief that anything published on the Internet is somehow protected free speech. In fact, it is protected free speech until one steps over the line into defamatory speech. Defamatory speech enjoys no protection.


Of note in this case, the blogger spent five months in jail for his defamation. Not because he defamed, but because he refused to stop defaming. You see, a court cannot order you not to publish information that you want to publish, but once that information has been found to be defamatory, then the court can order you never to tell the same lies again, and can order you to remove the lies from the Internet.


In this case, the blogger was ordered after trial to remove the defamatory comments, but refused to do so. He even added more information. This amounted to contempt, and the court put him in jail until he removed the statements. He stood on his purported principles for five months, and then relented and had his wife remove the posts.

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Court tosses lawyer’s libel suit over ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’

Court tosses lawyer’s libel suit over ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ | Defamation Law | Scoop.it
TORONTO – Ontario’s top court has tossed a defamation action by a lawyer over a book in which he is cited as saying he identified with the Mexican bandit from the movie “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”

In a written ruling Monday, the Court of Appeal sided with a lower court judge, who rejected the action from David Midanik against Betsy Powell in October last year, and ordered him to pay more than $100,000 in legal costs.

“In our view, this defamation action was ill-conceived,” the Appeal Court said.
Aaron Morris's insight:

Two lessons from this Canadian case. First, consider whether your colorful writing style is going to get you into trouble, and second that context is everything.


In this case, a lawyer penned a book about some of his legal experiences. He wrote about a case he prosecuted against a Toronto street gang, and stated that one of the defense attorneys was like Tuco Ramirez, a character from the film "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." He paraphrased a line from the character, "I like big men because they fall hard."


The defense lawyer in question took offense at this comment, and sued for defamation. He argued that by equating him with Tuco Ramirez, the author implied that he was a murderer, rapist, dishonest and sleazy.


The case was doomed to failure, both legally and conceptually.


When one quotes from a fictional character, that does not mean or even imply that the quote is meant to pull in all the traits of the character in question. If I'm doing a hockey story, and I show a player making a slap shot, with the caption, "Say hello to my little friend," am I implying that the hockey player is a drug lord?


The trial court and Court of Appeal agreed with that interpretation, and dismissed the case. Under Canadian law, the loser pays, so this ill-conceived case (the court's words) cost the thin-skinned attorney about 100,000 Canadian dollars, eh.

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Firefighter pictured in sex scandal article loses libel claims against Daily News, appeals | Pennsylvania Record

Firefighter pictured in sex scandal article loses libel claims against Daily News, appeals | Pennsylvania Record | Defamation Law | Scoop.it
Per the order of a federal judge, the libel lawsuit brought by a Philadelphia firefighter against the New York Daily News earlier this year has been dismissed, though court records indicate he has appealed that verdict.
Aaron Morris's insight:

This was an interesting case that really could have gone either way, and well may be reversed on appeal.

The New York Daily News reported on a sex scandal at the fire department, and the article included two photographs. The first was a generic stock photo showing firefighters at the scene of a fire, but inexplicably the newspaper chose to use a photo of firefighter Francis Cheney II, taken during a formal 9/11 ceremony. The newspaper's intent was simply to use Cheney as a representation of a firefighter, but a casual reader could easily draw the conclusion that he was one of the firefighters involved in the sex scandal.

I would have anticipated that the defamation claim he filed would fail, but he also filed a claim for false light invasion of privacy, and that claim certainly had some merit.

But the judge in Pennsylvania disagreed, and through out all of Cheney's claims. The judge found that the photo provided sufficient context such that a reader would know that no link between the photo of Cheney and the sex scandal was intended.

This is an important factor in any defamation (or false light) claim. The fact that a statement or photo can be interpreted in a defamatory sense is not enough. The statement must be given a reasonable interpretation.

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Daily Mail publisher loses challenge to JK Rowling ruling

Daily Mail publisher loses challenge to JK Rowling ruling | Defamation Law | Scoop.it
Associated Newspapers objected to parts of the statement that the author plans to read in open court as part of the settlement of her libel claim
Aaron Morris's insight:

In California, if a plaintiff wants to sue a newspaper (or radio station) for defamation, the plaintiff must first demand a retraction. If no such demand is made, then the plaintiff is limited to special damages (the actual damages that flow from the defamation. Failing to demand a retraction can kill the action, because it is often the case that no actual damages can be shown. If the demand is made, the newspaper can avoid any award for general damages by printing a retraction.

Across the pond, they have a similar process. The newspaper must print an apology, and if it does so, the plaintiff cannot recover any damages unless he, she or it can show that the article was printed with malice.

In the case of JK Rowling, the newspaper printed the apology, but then became upset when it saw what Rowling was going to say in court.

 

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Gay Lawyer Takes Stand in Defamation Suit

Gay Lawyer Takes Stand in Defamation Suit | Defamation Law | Scoop.it

The gay attorney suing Anapol Schwartz for defamation took the stand Tuesday to outline his departure from the firm and his decision to accept a job at Raynes McCarty...

Aaron Morris's insight:

Quite the case. The law firm associate, Jeffrey Downs, was planning to make a lateral move from Anapol Schwartz to Raynes McCarty, but allegedly his former firm informed the new firm that Downs was preparing to sue the former firm for discrimination. Raynes McCarty then revoked its offer.


Ironically, Downs is now suing Raynes McCarty for discrimination and defamation. Presumably, if the allegations are true, the firm revoked the offer because it feared that Downs was litigious and wanted to avoid being sued, but in the process bought itself a lawsuit in any event.


Equally ironic, before leaving Downs had sent an email to his firm, seeking eight months of severance pay. That is the email that the firm is pointing to to claim that Downs was threatening litigation before his departure, which would make the warning to the new firm absolutely true.


[May 12, 2015 Update:] The jury returned a verdict in favor of defendant Raynes McCarty.

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Former 49er Ray McDonald sues rape accuser for defamation

Former 49er Ray McDonald sues rape accuser for defamation | Defamation Law | Scoop.it

"Former San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald has gone on the offensive, filing a lawsuit Monday against the woman who accused him of sexual assault in December, as a way to try to clear his name in hopes of restarting his career."

Aaron Morris's insight:

This will be an interesting case to follow.


McDonald was accused of rape after spending the night with a woman me met at a San Jose bar. She claimed that while partying with McDonald at his home, she bumped her head during a hot tubbing incident, and did not recall anything that followed until she woke up naked in his bed the following morning. She spent the day with him, but sought medical treatment the next day. McDonald never denied that he had sex with the woman, but said it was consenual.


For reasons I have explained here before, reports to the police are privileged and will not support a defamation action. If that is the basis for the claim, this case will soon be gone on an anti-SLAPP motion. But if the woman alleged rape outside of that context, then McDonald's case will survive.

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Defamation in False Online Review

In a case brought by a US law firm in respect of a defamatory allegation on the firm's Google Maps profile, it was held that the posting of a negative review by an English poster amounted to defamation deserving of substantial damages. In The Bussey Law Firm PC & Anor v. Page [2015] EWHC 563 (QB), the offending post read as follows:
 

'Scumbag Tim Bussey, pays for false reviews, loses 80% of his cases.

Not a happy camper'

Aaron Morris's insight:

A case out of England that is interesting for a couple of reasons.


When I mention that I represent clients who are suing for false reviews, I sometimes get a shocked look. People feel that reviews should be off limits, since they are matter of opinion.


In a perfect world that would be entirely true, but as this case illustrates, a review is not a matter of opinion if it is a complete fabrication by someone who has never done business with the company. Here, the defendant charges $5 to write fake reviews. The reviews can be good or bad, depending on what the purchaser wants. Keep that in mind whenever you are reading on-line reviews.


The damages awarded are also interesting. No doubt, the plaintiff could not show any direct loss of business because of this one bad review, but the court nonetheless awarded the maximum amount permitted under the law. One's reputation has value, and the court felt a stiff damage award was appropriate for damaging the reputation.

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Fake Social Media Account by Police Allowed Without Warrant

Fake Social Media Account by Police Allowed Without Warrant | Defamation Law | Scoop.it
Keep your friends close, and your Instagram friends even closer.   One of your online friends might be the police and a search warrant fis not needed to befriend you on social media. A US District ...
Aaron Morris's insight:

To quote Bugs Bunny, "What a maroon!"


When a string of burglaries occurred, the police had a pretty good idea who it might me. They found the suspect's Instagram account, and asked (under an undercover account) to become "friends". The suspect agreed.


The suspect then proceeded to send out pictures of all the stolen property to his "friends", which now included the police. Busted.


The suspect sought to exclude the evidence, claiming the police needed a search warrant, but the court disagreed.


“Where Facebook privacy settings allow viewership of postings by “friends,” the Government may access them through a cooperating witness who is a “friend” without violating the Fourth Amendment” as in the case of U.S. v. Meregildo (883 F. Supp. 2d 523, 525 (S.D.N.Y. 2012)) where a Facebook “friend” was a cooperating witness and allowed law enforcement to access Meregildo’s posts regarding his violent acts and gang activity.

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'Revenge Porn' Law Sees First Conviction In California

'Revenge Porn' Law Sees First Conviction In California | Defamation Law | Scoop.it

"A man who posted nude photos of his ex-girlfriend without her consent on her employer’s Facebook page is the first person to be convicted under California’s “revenge porn” law, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office reported Monday.
 

Noe Iniguez, 36, of Los Angeles was sentenced Monday to one year in jail and 36 months of probation and will be required to attend domestic violence counseling for violating both the state’s revenge porn statute and two restraining orders."


Aaron Morris's insight:

The facts of this case are horrendous, and illustrate the need for such a statute.


As I have written here before, we has successfully sued for this sort of conduct, but this law adds another means to help victims of revenge porn.

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Google has free speech right in search results, court confirms

Google has free speech right in search results, court confirms | Defamation Law | Scoop.it
A San Francisco court ruled last week that Google has the right to arrange its search results as it pleases, which confirms the company’s long-held view, while underscoring the stark difference in how U.S. and European seek to regulate the search giant.
Aaron Morris's insight:

The number of callers have gone down as the defamed public becomes more educated on the topic, but I still get a lot of calls from potential clients wanting to sue Google for the information reported in its search results.


I always viewed this as wanting to sue the telephone company because it listed the phone number of a con artist in the phone book. Just as the phone book simply lists the names and telephone numbers of people with telephones, Google results are just a report of what is out on the internet. Google, quite appropriately in my opinion, has always argued that its search results are neutral, and it cannot be responsible for whatever its search spiders happen to find.


With that said, the frustration of defamation victims is understandable. The squib that Google creates in conjunction with the search results can often be more damning than the defamatory posting itself, because of the truncated nature. 


It this recent challenge to Google, the plaintiff added a slight twist. CoastNews was miffed that it was ranked high on Bing and Yahoo, but that Google was pushing it far down the search results because it perceived CoastNews as a competitor. It sued, claiming that Google was being unfair, and should not be able to determine the position of websites returned in the search results.


Google brought an anti-SLAPP motion, which was granted.

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Richmond restaurant encourages bad Yelp reviews

Richmond restaurant encourages bad Yelp reviews | Defamation Law | Scoop.it

Botto Bistro in Richmond is not very concerned about its Yelp rating. In fact, in an effort to undermine the reliability of its Yelp page, the five-year-old Italian restaurant is on a mission to be the worst-rated restaurant in the Bay Area.
 

To achieve this end, Botto Bistro is encouraging all of its customers to leave one-star Yelp reviews; it is even offering deals for anyone who pens a crummy review: 25% off any pizza and a chance to win a cooking class. (Hat-tip to Richmond Standard.)

Aaron Morris's insight:

I applaud these restaurant owners.


In recent court documents, Yelp has admitted that its reviews are not trustworthy, and these owners have found a way to get out that message. They encourage their patrons to write false bad reviews. It's just a great way to get people to realize that anyone can write anything.


Ironically, Yelp wrote to the business to say that it is improperly paying for reviews. The business responded, "Yes we are. Thank you for noticing."


Now the fun begins. In a case called McMillan Law Group, Yelp is suing a law firm that had dared to successfully sue Yelp. Yelp filed its own suit, claiming that if a business encourages Yelpers to write false reviews, that amounts to interference with contract.  How so? Well, according to Yelp, anyone who posts a review is subject to the terms of use for the site, and those terms of use provide that the users should not post fake reviews. If a business asks those users to post fake reviews, then that business is intentionally interfering with the "contract" between Yelp and its users. If Yelp fails to sue this restaurant, how will it explain that inconsistency?

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Court of Appeals upholds $14.5 million defamation verdict against State Farm in hail fight

Court of Appeals upholds $14.5 million defamation verdict against State Farm in hail fight | Defamation Law | Scoop.it

The largest defamation verdict in Indiana history — more than $14.5 million awarded to a contractor who claimed State Farm Fire & Casualty ruined his business and reputation — has been upheld by the Indiana Court of Appeals.


In a decision issued Tuesday, the three-judge panel found Hamilton Superior Court Judge Steven R. Nation correctly denied the insurance giant’s request for a new trial based on a claim that roofing contractor Joseph Radcliff obtained the judgment through fraud on the court.

The case grew out of a 2006 storm that battered Central Indiana with golf-ball-size hail and ravaged thousands of homes. The damage tally topped $1 billion, with State Farm alone paying out more than $200 million on about 50,000 damage claims.


The payout to Radcliff, however, was not the result of damage to homes or cars — but for what a Hamilton County jury determined was damage State Farm did to the roofing contractor’s reputation.


Aaron Morris's insight:

These case are becoming so commonplace, I've taken to calling them the "second appeal". Here's the way they work.


The defendant loses in the trial court, then they lose on appeal, so they bring their own action or motion back in the trial court, claiming the original verdict was achieved by a "fraud on the court", usually based on some evidence the defendant claims would have resulted in a different result.


There is support for such case, but the circumstances for a successful fraud on the court claim are extremely narrow. Here, the insurance company claimed that after the trial, it obtained a declaration from a witness who said the plaintiff had lied and withheld evidence. That approach won't fly. Courts want finality to their verdicts, and that is evidence that could have been presented in the original trial. A defendant does not get to call a "Mulligan" because it failed to vigorously defend the case the first time around.


In one of my cases, a plaintiff sued my client and we counter-sued. In the end, we obtained a large judgment, and just as in this case, the plaintiff appealed and lost. The plaintiff then brought an action for fraud on the court, claiming the entire matter had been covered by an arbitration agreement, and that we had "defrauded" the court by allowing it to enter a judgement, knowing the matter was subject to arbitration. You read right. The plaintiff brought the action under an agreement that contained an arbitration clause, and then claimed that we had defrauded the court by not invoking the arbitration requirement. The case was thrown out on demurrer.

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New Trial for Damages in Email Defamation Case

New Trial for Damages in Email Defamation Case | Defamation Law | Scoop.it


A heavy equipment dealer that alleged a competitor had torpedoed its impending exclusivity deal with Hyundai by sending an allegedly defamatory eleventh-hour email to the president of Hyundai Equipment Americas won a new trial on damages in federal court in Pittsburgh.

After a week-long trial last year, a jury returned a verdict finding the email had been defamatory, but the company hadn't suffered any actual damages because of it. 


U.S. District Judge Mark R. Hornak of the Western District of Pennsylvania has now held that problems in the structure of the verdict sheet given to that jury would warrant a new trial on the question of presumed and punitive damages.


Read more: http://www.thelegalintelligencer.com/id=1202670069770/New-Trial-for-Damages-in-Email-Defamation-Case#ixzz3DQRakC9s

Aaron Morris's insight:

There are two types of damages in a defamation action:  presumed and actual. Actual damages have to be proven, and can be very difficult to prove in some cases, because it is not usually the case that customers will call to say they are not doing business with the plaintiff because of the defamation.


This case illustrates that point. The jury found the defamation, but were not convinced that it had caused any actual damages. Lucky for the plaintiff, the appeal court decided that the verdict form could have caused confusion, and ordered a new trial.

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Beach man sued for defamation over YouTube video

Can posting a YouTube video land you in a defamation lawsuit?

Yes, as Michael Wilson found out.


The Virginia Beach resident is being sued over posting a video of what he claimed was a woman delivering a FedEx package to his home, then urinating on his driveway. Shamrock Delivery, a Suffolk company that contracts with FedEx, calls the video false and defamatory and claims in court documents that it greatly injured its reputation.


Aaron Morris's insight:

People continue to believe they can post with impunity on the Internet. Truth is a DEFENSE to a claim for defamation, meaning that the burden is on the defendant to prove the truth of the statement.


In this case, the defendant posted a video of a delivery person, who he thought was urinating in his driveway. She claims she was simply ducking behind her vehicle in order to avoid a dog. The defendant will now be in the position of having to come up with some method of proving she urinated.

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Glenn Beck’s audacious defense against Boston Marathon bombings defamation suit

Glenn Beck’s audacious defense against Boston Marathon bombings defamation suit | Defamation Law | Scoop.it

"Broadcaster Glenn Beck, formerly of Fox News, was nonetheless suspicious of Alharbi. He thought the Obama administration was hiding Alharbi’s involvement. So three weeks later, Beck urged the government to release its information on Alharbi or else Beck would “expose” him.


“While the media continues to look at what the causes were [behind] these two guys, there are, at this hour, three people involved,” Beck said, alleging the U.S. government had “tagged” Alharbi as a “proven terrorist.” Over several broadcasts, Beck called Alharbi the “money man” behind the Boston bombings. “You know who the Saudi is?” Beck asked. “He’s the money man. He’s the guy who paid for it.”


What Beck said about Alharbi was untrue. Alharbi sued Beck for defamation in federal court in late March. And now, in a batch of little-noticed motions, Beck has lashed back, saying Alharbi is trying to “punish” and impede Beck’s First Amendment rights. Beck argues the bombings made Alharbi a “limited purpose” and “involuntary” public figure who must prove not just that Beck made false accusations, but that Beck did it with “actual malice.”


Beck sticks to his guns that the man suing him for defamation had acted "suspiciously."
Aaron Morris's insight:

This appears to the the classic, "I talked about you and made you a public figure, and now that you are a public figure, you have to show what I said about you was said with malice." 

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Jones Day Threatens SLAPP Suit Against Detroit-Area Blogger

Jones Day Threatens SLAPP Suit Against Detroit-Area Blogger | Defamation Law | Scoop.it

Jones Day, the third largest law firm on the planet, is focusing their weighty legal acumen and collective wrath upon the head of one lone Detroit-area blogger who dared to poke serious fun at their activities in the Detroit bankruptcy proceedings. Also found in the blogger’s sardonic cross hairs is one of the firm’s former associates, Kevyn Orr — aka, Detroit’s Emergency Manager — both parties are being scorched in parody by the outspoken blogger over their joint roles in looting the already decimated city coffers.

Aaron Morris's insight:

Business clients call to ask me to examine some review that was posted on-line, wanting to sue for defamation. When I advise them that the comments are permissible statements of opinion and not actionable defamation, the next question is almost always, "but can you at least send a cease and desist letter to make him take it down?"


No, I can't, because it would be a toothless threat designed to intimidate someone out of exercising their right of free speech.


Apparently the law firm of Jones Day does not operate under the same standard, especially when its own ox is be gored. As you'll see, the firm claimed that a blogger could not use its name in order to criticize it. Just as Stephen Colbert can use the name and even the logo of Domino's Pizza in his parody news report, this blogger was free to use the name of Jones Day.

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Oklahoma City attorney files slander lawsuit

Oklahoma City attorney files slander lawsuit | Defamation Law | Scoop.it
Prominent criminal defense attorney accuses fellow attorney of trying to steal clients by spreading lies.
Aaron Morris's insight:

If the only case of defamation is the statement to the jail inmate, then this defamation action is DOA.

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Sleeping Fan Sues New York Yankees, MLB, ESPN for Defamation

Sleeping Fan Sues New York Yankees, MLB, ESPN for Defamation | Defamation Law | Scoop.it
Andrew Rector proved today that you really can sue anyone - even MLB, ESPN or the New York Yankees - for just about anything.
Aaron Morris's insight:

Clients often call and say, "can this person sue me for defamation if I [fill in the blank]." As I always say, and as this case illustrates, anyone can sue anybody for anything. The question is, can they do so successfully? The answer here will be, no. A ridiculous and frivolous suit.

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Chinese blogger jailed for three YEARS for 'rumour mongering'

Chinese blogger jailed for three YEARS for 'rumour mongering' | Defamation Law | Scoop.it

A Chinese blogger who was accused of spreading rumours about the government and celebrities has been jailed for three years for 'rumour mongering'.


Marketing employee Qin Zhihui, 30, is believed to be the first person to be jailed since China's authorities announced a crackdown on online writers last August.


Aaron Morris's insight:

Makes you glad to live in America.

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Cooley Law School loses defamation suit against New York law firm

Cooley Law School loses defamation suit against New York law firm | Defamation Law | Scoop.it

Cooley Law School has lost an appeal in their defamation lawsuit against a law firm that posted criticism of the school's reporting of student debt on a popular law school message board.


The school had filed a $17 million lawsuit against Kurzon Strauss LLC, a New York firm, and two attorneys associated with the firm, Jesse Strauss and David Anziska, accusing them of posting defamatory statements on the popular law school message board "JD Underground". The post said that federal regulators were investigating Cooley Law School over student loan default rates and employment for graduates.


Those statements were later retracted, but the firm then began preparing a proposed class-action lawsuit against the school, at which point Cooley filed its suit against the firm accusing them of defamation, breach of contract and interference with business relations, among other claims.


A trial court granted judgment to Kurzon Strauss before trial, saying that Cooley Law School was a "public figure" and therefore would have to prove that the firm acted with a disregard for the truth, a bar the court said Cooley could not clear


Aaron Morris's insight:

When an individual or entity is deemed to be a "limited public figure", the theory is that such a person has greater access to the media, and can therefore tell their side of the story. Therefore, when a limited public figure sues for defamation, they have  a higher standard of proof to show that defamation. Specifically, they must show the person who allegedly defamed them acted with "actual malice" or "reckless disregard for the truth".


Here, the court concluded that Cooley Law School would not be able to meet that burden.

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Aaron Morris's curator insight, July 7, 2014 7:43 PM

When an individual or entity is deemed to be a "limited public figure", the theory is that such a person has greater access to the media, and therefore can tell their side of the story. Therefore, when a limited public figure sues for defamation, they have  a higher standard of proof to show that defamation. Specifically, they must show the person who allegedly defamed them acted with "actual malice" or "reckless disregard for the truth".


Here, the court concluded that Cooley Law School would not be able to meet that burden.


Go here for more Internet Defamation cases.

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Bitcoin extortion letters threaten pizza restaurants with Yelp slander

Bitcoin extortion letters threaten pizza restaurants with Yelp slander | Defamation Law | Scoop.it
Bitcoin extortion letters threaten pizza restaurants with slander, fake reviews, food contamination, and even bomb threats...
Aaron Morris's insight:

The pizza in the photo looks like it deserves a bad review, but setting that aside, here is yet another example of Yelp reviews being used as a form of extortion.

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'Wire' creator David Simon slams HuffPost for publishing libel

'Wire' creator David Simon slams HuffPost for publishing libel | Defamation Law | Scoop.it
The Huffington Post corrected a blogpost that wrongly stated The Wire creator David Simon was fired from the Baltimore Sun.

The blogpost was written by Linda
Aaron Morris's insight:

Someone can be fired for any number of reasons having nothing to do with poor performance, so the question is whether it is defamatory to falsely state that someone was fired. Kudos to Huffington Post, though, for correcting the article and not doing the usual "we stand by our story" nonsense.

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Globe-trotting food lover accused of 'blackmail and libel' after TripAdvisor review - Telegraph

Globe-trotting food lover accused of 'blackmail and libel' after TripAdvisor review - Telegraph | Defamation Law | Scoop.it
Chris Hobson's 'nasty' review on TripAdvisor of a South Yorkshire restaurant has led to threats of legal action by the restaurant director and accusations of blackmail
Aaron Morris's insight:

I can't speak to whether this individual engaged in the act, but this form of extortion has been prevalent in Europe for some time, and it is spreading to America. Always view reviews with a grain of salt if they discordant with other reviews. 

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Curated by Aaron Morris
A Partner in the law firm of Morris & Stone, with more than 20 years of experience in employment, free speech, defamation and anti-SLAPP law. Call (714) 954-0700 with any questions.