Monthly Archives: October 2012

Internet Defamation: Questions & Answers

Any blogger or business that uses the Web should be aware of Internet defamation statutes. For the most part, acts of online libel are subject to the same laws as offline offenses. However, the structure, speed and universal availability of the Internet presents unique legal questions singular to cyber defamation litigation.

For example:

  1. Are bloggers considered journalists?
  2. Are bloggers considered public figures?
  3. I’m a political blogger, am I considered a public figure?
  4. Are corporations considered public figures for the purposes of a cyber defamation lawsuit?
  5. If I omit names from a blog post, can I still be sued for cyber defamation?
  6. Is it illegal to link to a defamatory statement?
  7. What happens if a third-party post on your website is defamatory, are you liable?
  8. What about paid/fake reviews, are they allowed or can they result in a cyber defamation lawsuit?

We’ll answer all these questions. But first, let’s quickly review a few defamation law basics.

Basic Elements of Defamation Law

While slander (spoken defamation) and libel (written defamation) statutes are nuanced, and vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the basic definition of defamation reads:

defamation, n. (14c) 1. The act of harming the reputation of another by making a false statement to a third person.• If the alleged defamation involves a matter of public concern, the plaintiff is constitutionally required to prove both the statement’s falsity and the defendant’s fault. 2. A false written or oral statement that damages another’s reputation. See LIBEL; SLANDER. Cf. (Black’s Law Dictionary, Ninth Edition)

In order for a statement to be considered false, in the context of a slander or libel lawsuit, it must be provably false. To illustrate, you likely won’t get far suing someone because they called you “a sorry excuse for a human being” because morality is subjective and one person’s “sorry excuse” could be another person’s “hero.” Now, if someone said you “stole money to finance your start-up” – and you didn’t – there’s a good chance you’d emerge victorious in a defamation lawsuit.

Privileged Statements

Another aspect of cyber defamation law is privileged versus unprivileged statements. While the definition of “privilege” and whether or not it’s considered protected speech depends on jurisdiction, the general rule of thumb is that any private communication, including those related to official confidential proceedings or other some other type of non-public discourse, cannot be the subject of a defamation lawsuit.

Public Figures v. Private Figures

Intent and status weigh heavily in defamation proceedings. To put it simply, a plaintiff in a slander or libel lawsuit must prove that the defendant acted negligently or with malice. Purposefully publishing information known to be false, to inflict reputational damage, is considered malicious – in legal terms, this is called “actual malice.” All “public figures” must prove actual malice in order to win a slander or libel claim.

The definition of a public figure, once again, differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; but in general, any celebrity (local or otherwise), any individual who holds public office, or any individual who willingly thrusts themselves into a public debate, are usually deemed “public figures” and therefore must meet “actual malice” standards. In some regions, teachers and government workers also qualify as public figures.

Private figures, on the other hand, only have to prove negligence to emerge victorious in a cyber-defamation case, which means they only have to prove that a reasonable person would not have published the material in question.

Are Bloggers Considered Journalists?

It’s an oft-asked question: are bloggers considered journalists? The answer: Yes, bloggers are legally considered journalists. The United States Supreme Court has said that “in the context of defamation law, the rights of the institutional media are no greater and no less than those enjoyed by other individuals and organizations engaged in the same activities.”

But don’t fool yourself into thinking that the First Amendment will protect everything you publish because you’re legally considered a reporter. In fact, it means that you should probably engage in rigorous journalistic ethics and quadruple check everything for accuracy before posting. Ensure you have cited sources and be careful how you word things. Because remember, the same well-funded, in-house legal teams going after mega-media outlets are the same ones going after bloggers.

Are Bloggers Considered Public Figures?

United States defamation law differentiates between public and private figures. Public figures must meet the actual malice standard while private citizens only have to prove negligence. In addition to burden of proof standards, some jurisdictions consider a person’s status in their retraction rules. Some states don’t allow public figure plaintiffs from collecting punitive damages if they fail to seek a retraction first.

An additional note about retractions: in most instances, a retraction must be as conspicuous as the original statement to satisfy applicable laws.

I’m A Blogger Who Focuses on Local Government. Am I Considered A Public Figure Since I Willingly Inject Myself Into Matters Of Public Interest?

If you blog about politics – either local or national – take some time to look into the state laws that define what constitutes a public figure in your area. In some jurisdictions, anybody who willingly enters in a public discourse about a matter of government or public interest can be considered a limited-purpose public figure. Some states, though, have laws that protect citizens who choose to comment on public proceedings. For example, in California, you can make “a fair and true report in, or a communication to, a public journal, of (A) a judicial, (B) legislative, or (C) other public official proceeding, or (D) of anything said in the course thereof, or (E) of a verified charge or complaint made by any person to a public official, upon which complaint a warrant has been issued.”

Are Corporations Considered Public Figures in Defamation Lawsuits?

While the facts of a given case will determine whether or not a company will be viewed as a public figure or private entity, for the purposes of a slander or libel lawsuit, the general rule of thumb is that corporations are people and held to the same standards as individuals.

If I Start Every Sentence With ‘IMO,’ Can It Be Viewed As Defamatory? What If I Don’t Use Names?

Even if you omit names from your article, if the target of your scorn can be reasonably inferred from surrounding content, it may be ruled defamatory, despite the opinion indicator or the fact that you didn’t use names. Judges aren’t easily fooled by well-worded, obvious, “CYB” statements. The “reasonable person” test is vigorously applied in defamation suits; so if a reasonable person could “see through” the attempts at turning defamation into opinion, than you still may end up on the hook.

Is It Illegal To Link To Defamatory Content?

Yes, according to United States legal precedence, you can be held liable for linking to defamatory content posted on another website — especially if the surrounding context discusses the material. While there are ways to defend against cyber defamation claims that involve hyperlinks, if you want to play it safe, avoid linking to material that may be defamatory. As a rule of thumb, the more salacious/outrageous the material, the higher the probability that it’s defamatory.

What Happens If Someone Posts Something Defamatory On My Site? Can I Be Held Responsible?

User generated content is now the norm. You can comment on most sites and social media is based on member interactions. As such, if you run a site, there’s a good chance someone may post something defamatory on your pages. If it happens, don’t panic. You may not be held responsible.

  1. If you were not aware of the statement, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act says you are not responsible for the statement.
  2. If you promote or up-status a defamatory post on your website (i.e., take a comment on a thread and turn it into its own highlighted blog post) you may be held liable if the information in the promoted material is defamatory. Why? Because you’re essentially writing your own article. Now, if the promoted material is on a forum and not a blog, a judge may rule differently due to the topic-specific nature of forum threads.

Is it defamatory to post a negative online review of a product or service? What if it’s a phony review?

Simply stated, it is not OK to post fake product or service reviews on the Web. Yes, it’s possible to purchase thousands of phony reviews for very little money on sites like Fiverr, but if your site is successful enough to catch the attention of the FTC, there’s a significant chance they’ll open an investigation and slap you with a healthy fine. Not only could you be brought up on defamation charges, but on Lanham act violations as well, which renders illegal any action that “misrepresents the nature, characteristics, or qualities of his or her or another person’s goods, services or commercial activities.”

Lawyer Sued For Defamation In New York By Father

Attorney Richard Fischbein has sued for defamation — the defendant is his daughter Beth Fischbein-Bodner. A slander case begging to be made into a Lifetime Original Movie, Fischbein v. Fischbein-Bodner is the tale of two related attorneys, a stepmom, a trust fund, fraud – and even slain rapper, turned in-demand hologram, Tupac Shakur.

Daughter Sued For Defamation By Infamous Lawyer Father Over Trust Fund Allegations

There’s a lawyer currently walking the streets of New York whose client roster includes Donald Trump, the Black Panthers and late rap artist Tupac Shakur. His name is Richard Fischbein and he’s suing for defamation. The defendant is his daughter. What’s causing the consternation between the two related esquires? A trust fund.

Back in 1980, a trust fund was set up for Beth that was supposed to be made available on her 21st birthday, in 1990. Mr. Fischbein and his new wife (Beth’s stepmom), Mimi, however, allegedly accessed the account on two occasions prior to the 1990 date. According to reports, they allegedly adjusted the fund so Beth wouldn’t get the real estate originally allotted to her, but instead two smaller properties. In the end, Beth says her trust fund was diminished to $114,000. (Hey, one person’s $114,000 is another person’s $14 – it’s all relative.)

Instead of battling it out behind closed doors, Fischbein-Bodner petitioned the state Surrogate Court for a trust fund audit. Apparently, she thought it would reveal dastardly dealings initiated by her father and stepmom. Beth was convinced the pair was using her money to leverage a $6.5 million mortgage nut. Papa Fischbein, however, denies any wrongdoing, chiding only that his daughter is an “ungrateful child.” But instead of engaging in a little silent treatment to demonstrate displeasure, Fischbein filed a $3 million lawsuit against his spawn for “maliciously and in bad faith” libeling his name and insinuating he engaged in financial hanky-panky.

Why The Punitive Defamation Damages Request, Dad?

When the New York Daily News asked Fischbein about the emotions involved in suing one’s daughter he said, “I wish it didn’t happen.” He’s also pointed out his financial contributions in terms of private schools, summer camps and law school.

Fishbein’s claim of regret, though, is arguably at odds with the types of defamation damages he requested. You’d think that someone experiencing litigation regret wouldn’t add insult to injury by asking for punitive damages; you’d think recouping actual damages would be the only concern of a plaintiff who is reluctantly filing a suit. But then again, who knows. Different strokes for different folks, right?

The cherry on top on this defamation lawsuit, though, is a statement put out by Fishbein’s spokesman that reads, “The accounting will find that, after it is completely done, he will be vindicated and she will find that she owes him money.” The mouthpiece also assured that his client, the benevolent being that he is, “will not ask for it to be reimbursed.”

No Stranger to slander litigation, Richard Fishbein once sued for defamation the famous steakhouse Angelo & Maxie for $7 million, claiming the restaurant “detained and humiliated” him “for not leaving a $353 tip.” Viva la libel litigation!

If you are being sued for defamation, contact The Kelly / Warner Law Firm today. We have considerable experience with slander and libel litigation cases and have helped many with their defamation woes. Get in touch today to begin the conversation.

Member Of Famous Family Filing A Slander Lawsuit

connecticut lawsuitHave you ever seen the movie Murder in Greewich? It’s about the 1975 slaying of Martha Moxley, a Connecticut teenager who was beat to death with a golf club on Halloween Eve. One of the more famous true crime cases of our time, Michael Skakel – a Kennedy relative – was convicted of the crime in 2002.

Last week, Skakel appeared before a parole board and asked for early release. But the day before that hearing, his attorney filed a slander lawsuit against popular litigator-turned-TV-criminal-pundit Nancy Grace.

Why Is Michael Skakel Suing Nancy Grace For Slander?

According to Greenwich Patch, Skakel’s slander lawsuit centers around a statement made on Grace’s show in January of this year. When discussing the case, Beth Karas – a correspondent – and the feisty host said that DNA evidence was found at the scene of the crime that linked Skakel to the murder. The problem is that Skakel is white, and the only DNA evidence found near Martha was that of two males — one African American and the other Asian.

Filed in the Stamford Superior Court, Skakel’s suit seeks defamation damages of around $2,500; Grace, Karas and Turner Broadcasting are all listed as defendants.

Can Prisoners File Slander Lawsuits?

After hearing Skakel’s plea for release, the parole board denied his request. So does that mean he can’t continue to pursue this slander lawsuit? Not at all.

While there are restrictions to the types of lawsuits prisoners can file in certain cases, no statutes currently on the books prevent Skakel from filing this slander lawsuit. That being said, one of the reasons he may be asking for only a couple thousand dollars is because a federal law passed in 1996 says there are limitations on how much a lawyer who represents a convicted criminal can collect.

Can Skakel Win This Slander Lawsuit Against Nancy Grace?

In order to win this slander lawsuit, Skakel will most likely have to prove that Grace and co. maliciously lied. As such, the defendants in this case will probably:

(a) bring up another piece of evidence related to the case and point to that as the topic of their discussion; or

(b) argue that their source information was wrong, but since they engaged in proper due diligence, the statement in question was not an intentional lie and therefore not defamatory in the legal sense of the word.

There’s also the ever-present possibility that Grace, Karas and Turner Broadcasting will agree to settle. And since Skakel isn’t asking for much, my bet is that we won’t hear much more about this slander lawsuit for long.

Have you or your business been defamed? Are adversaries or competitors smearing your good name? If you’re looking for an experienced slander attorney to litigate your defamation issue, we have the perfect legal team to deal with the situation – to your satisfaction. Get in touch today to learn about our slander litigation services.

Defamation Statute of Limitations In The 50 United States

If you want to sue for slander or libel, you must file your lawsuit before the defamation statute of limitations period runs out in your chosen jurisdiction. If you are filing a slander or libel claim in a state court, the state’s defamation statutes of limitation take precedence; if you’re filing in federal court, national laws apply. Below is a list of the defamation statute of limitations in each of the 50 United States.

State Defamation Statute of Limitations Statute
Alabama 2 Years Code of Alabama. Title 6. Section 38(k)
Alaska 2 Years Alaska Statutes. Title 9. Section 70(a)
Arizona 1 Year Arizona Revised Statutes. Title 12. Section 541
Arkansas 3 Years Arkansas Code. Title 16. Subtitle 5. Section 105(5)
California 1 Year California Code of Civil Procedure. Part 2. Title 2. Section 340(c)
Colorado 1 Year Colorado Revised Statutes. Title 13. Section 103(a)
Connecticut 2 Years General Statutes of Connecticut. Title 52. Section 597
Delaware 2 Years Delaware Code. Title 10. Section 8119
District of Columbia 1 Year District of Columbia Official Code. Title 12. Section 301(4)
Florida 2 Years Florida Statutes. Title 8. Section 95.11(4)(g)
Georgia 1 Year Official Code of Georgia Annotated. Title 9. Section 33
Hawaii Two Years Hawaii Revised Statutes. Title 36. Section 657-4
Idaho Two Years Idaho Statutes. Title 5. Section 219(5)
Illinois 1 Year Illinois Compiled Statutes. Chapter 735. Article 13. Section 201
Indiana Two Years Indiana Code. Title 34. Article 11. Chapter 2. Section 4(1)
Iowa Two Years Iowa Code. Title 15. Chapter 614. Section 614.2
Kansas 1 Year Kansas Statutes Annotated. Chapter 60. Article 5. Section 60-513
Kentucky 1 Year Kentucky Revised Statutes. Title 36. Section 413.140(1)(d)
Louisiana 1 Year Louisiana Civil Code. Article 3492
Maine Two Years Maine Revised Statutes. Title 14. Section 753
Maryland 1 Year Maryland Code. Courts and Judicial Proceedings. Title 5. Section 105
Massachusetts Three Years Massachusetts General Laws. Part 3. Title V. Chapter 260. Section 2A
Michigan 1 Year Michigan Compiled Laws. Chapter 600. Section 5805(9)
Minnesota Two Years Minnesota Statutes. Chapter 541. Section 541.07(1)
Mississippi 1 Year Mississippi Code. Title 15. Chapter 1. Section 35
Missouri Two Years Missouri Revised Statutes. Title 35. Chapter 516. Section 140
Montana Two Years Montana Code Annotated. Title 27. Chapter 2. Section 204(3)
Nebraska 1 Year Nebraska Revised Statutes. Chapter 25. Section 208
Nevada Two Years Nevada Revised Statutes. Title 2. Chapter 11. Section 190(4)(c)
New Hampshire Three Years New Hampshire Statutes. Title 52. Chapter 508. Section 508.4(2)
New Jersey 1 Year New Jersey Statutes Annotated. Title 2A. Chapter 14. Section 14-3
New Mexico Three Years Chapter 37. Article 1. Section 8
New York 1 Year New York Code. Civil Practice Law and Rules. Article 2. Section 215(3)
North Carolina 1 Year North Carolina General Statutes. Chapter 1. Section 54(3)
North Dakota Two Years North Dakota Century Code. Title 28. Chapter 1. Section 18(1)
Ohio One Year Ohio Revised Code. Title 23. Section 2305.11(A)
Oklahoma One Year Oklahoma Statutes. Title 12. Section 95(A)(4)
Oregon One Year Oregon Revised Statutes. Title 2. Section 12.120(2)
Pennsylvania One Year Pennsylvania Code. Title 42. Section 5523(1)
Rhode Island One Year Rhode Island General Laws. Title 9. Section 1-14(a)
South Carolina Two Years South Carolina Code of Laws. Title 15. Section 3-550(1)
South Dakota Two Years South Dakota Codified Laws. Title 15. Section 2-15(1)
Tennessee Six months for slander; one year for libel Tennessee Code. Title 28. Sections 3-103, 3-104(a)(1)
Texas One Year Civil Practice and Remedies Code. Title 2. Section 16.002(a)
Utah One Year Utah Code. Title 78B. Section 2-302(4)
Vermont Three Years Vermont Statutes. Title 12. Section 512(3)
Virginia One Year Virginia Statutes. Title 8.01. Section 247.1
Washington Two Years Revised Code of Washington. Title 4. Section 16.100(1)
West Virginia Two Years West Virginia Code. Chapter 55. Section 2-12(b)
Wisconsin Three Years Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations. Chapter 893. Section 57
Wyoming One Year Wyoming Statutes Annotated. Title 1. Section 3-105(a)(5)(A)

Computer Stalking and Internet Harassment Laws In The United States

According to media reports, 24 states have both cyberstalking and cyberharassment laws, while 10 states have only cyberstalking laws and 13 states only have cyber harassment laws in place.

Internet Harassment Law: California Penal Code 646.9

In the sunny state of California, they have some of the most strict laws in the country when it comes to cyber stalking – using a computer and/or the Internet to stalk and harass someone. Their definition of stalking is – “Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family…”

The law specifically mentions electronic communication devices. By this, they mean telephones, cellular phones, computers, video recorders, fax machines, or pagers. This is not a complete list, and they borrow heavily from Subsection 12 of Section 2510 of Title 18 of the United States Code.

Internet Harassment Law: Texas H.B. No. 2003

This was instituted in September of 2009. They basically amended the text to include ONLINE HARASSMENT, which they define as “A person commits an offense if the person uses the name or persona of another person to create a web page on or to post one or more messages on a commercial social networking site. They can also be charged if they send an “electronic mail, instant message, text message, or similar communication that references a name, domain address, phone number, or other item of identifying information belonging to any person:” There are also other requirements that must be met to constitute Online Harassment in Texas, but it is one state you don’t want to mess with. The law has been used.

Internet Harassment Law: Arizona House Bill 2549

This was passed and took effect in August of 2012, making Arizona one of more than 20 states that have enacted specific laws for Internet and computer stalking. Previous laws (enacted in the 1970s) only dealt with the telephone as a communication device, which became a problem. Some opponents of the Bill stated that it was too vague with its language, but others think it goes just far enough to protect individuals against harassment using electronic communications – posts to forums, text messages, and even emails. The law does state that it does not apply to constitutionally protected speech.

Internet Harassment Law: Missouri HB 1852

In one of the more famous cases against bullying and cyberbullying, Megan Meier’s suicide prompted authorities to change laws to protect specifically against Internet harassment. Missouri HB 1852 was not popular with everyone, but it amended the definition of stalking and harassment to include electronic devices other than the telephone. Recently, the Missouri Supreme Court struck down some of the text in the law, citing concerns about free speech.

Internet Harassment Law: West Virginia Computer Crime and Abuse Act

West Virginia took steps to enact laws that specifically spell out harassment using “electronic communication devices.” In the law, they define the use of a computer, mobile phone, personal digital assistant or other electronic communication device as including but not limited to, “the transmission of text messages, electronic mail, photographs, videos, images or other nonvoice data by means of an electronic communication system, and includes the transmission of such data, documents, messages and images to another’s computer, e-mail account, mobile phone, personal digital assistant or other electronic communication device.”  They also deal with the issue of a person trying to maintain anonymity while harassing someone.

Internet Harassment Law: North Carolina S 14-196.3

Created especially to deal with Cyberstalking, North Carolina S 14-196.3   As with some other state laws, this one worded to protect any speech that would be constitutionally protected, although they define it as – “…any peaceable, nonviolent, or nonthreatening activity intended to express political views or to provide lawful information to others. This section shall not be construed to impair any constitutionally protected activity, including speech, protest, or assembly.” They also lay out very clearly what they mean by “electronic communication” as well as “electronic mail.”

Internet Harassment Law: Michigan 750.411h

This law deals specifically with stalking, dealing with definitions; what happens with violation as misdemeanor; penalties that may be given out; chances for probation and other conditions; dealing with continued conduct and additional penalties. While it is not built specifically around cyberstalking, it does mention electronic communication devices as a means of delivery for harassment or stalking.

Internet Harassment Law: Georgia § 16-5-90.

While not specifically created to deal with online harassment and stalking, the law does specifically mention technology. For the law, they turn to Code Section 16-9-92 for a definition of both “computer” and “computer network.” Before sentencing, the law states that a judge may require a psychological evaluation of the defendant and may also take into consideration the entire criminal history of the person if there is one.

Federal Stalking / Internet Harassment Laws

  • 18 U.S.C. 875(c) – This deals with threats that are given interstate. While it includes electronic communication devices like email, there must be a physical threat present to prosecute under this federal law.
  • 47 U.S.C. 223 – This has more broad definitions – ie it includes harassment as well as threats – but it only covers when a person (not using their name) harasses another directly. Therefore, it would not help for those that unknowingly dupe others into harassing their victim (through Internet trolling and other methods.)
  • 18 U.S.C. 2425 – These deals specifically with using electronic communications devices to entice children into unlawful sexual activity. While a good, tough law, it can’t be used in all cyberstalking or harassment cases.

Business Liability for Employee Conduct – Negligent Employment

“Negligent employment” actions are based on conduct that may be more specifically described as negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and negligent retention. Courts and litigants often use these terms interchangeably. Technically, however, there is a difference among the three types of negligent employment, which is based on the length of employment.

In some jurisdictions, a claim of negligent hiring, supervision, or retention may not be cognizable in certain situations, requiring a plaintiff to assert an alternative cause of action. For example, Kansas law does not recognize a cause of action for negligent supervision, hiring, and training in the context of sexual harassment.

To establish a prima facie case in an action based on the negligent hiring, supervision, or retention of an employee for damages caused by an employee’s tortious act, the plaintiff must show that:

1. the employer had a duty to protect the plaintiff from harm resulting from its employment of the tortfeasor
2. the employer breached that duty and
3. the employer’s breach of duty was a proximate cause of the harm suffered by the plaintiff

Contact one of our experienced business litigation lawyers to help guide you through your questions concerning employee liability.

Avoid Getting Your Defamation Lawsuit Dismissed

trialFormer UCLA basketball player Reeves Nelson’s defamation lawsuit against Sports Illustrated was recently dismissed by the Los Angeles Superior Court. The case stemmed from an article written by Pulitzer Prize winning author George Dohrmann entitled “Not The UCLA Way.” It appeared in the March 5, 2012 edition of the magazine.

I haven’t read the article, but according to reports, Dohrmann characterized Nelson as a player with “poor behavior” who was let go from the team because of it. Not pleased with the description, Nelson filed a defamation lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court.

To make a long story short, the judge ruled that Dohrmann had done extensive research and did not defame the athlete. The defamation case was dismissed.

Possible Reasons Why A Disparaging Statement May Not Be Defamatory

In order to win a defamation lawsuit in the United States, a plaintiff must prove the following:

  1. The statements in question was untruthful and harmed a reputation or that of a business;
  2. The statement was communicated to others; and
  3. The defendant(s) knowingly made a false statement with the intent to harm.

If one of the above can’t be proved, there’s a good chance a judge will dismiss the case or a jury will rule in favor of the defendant.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that opinion, 99% of the time in United States defamation cases, is not found to be defamatory.

Are Defamation Lawsuits Brought Against Bloggers Likely To Be Dismissed Since Bloggers Usually Just Give Their Opinions?

It isn’t true that bloggers can’t be sued for defamation. While it’s true that many bloggers shoot from the hip and speak their mind, defamation is defamation – and bloggers can be charged. In fact, since the rise of the Internet, bloggers have surpassed print journalists in losing civil defamation lawsuits.

Here’s why:

To put it plainly, defamation laws in the United States favor the first amendment and professional journalists, who usually engage in serious due diligence, are able to present strong defenses when faced with libel or slander charges. While it does happen, it’s rare to see a trained journalist lose a libel lawsuit in the United States.

Bloggers, on the other hand, lose defamation lawsuits more often than professional reporters; mainly because of a lack of due diligence and a tendency for bloggers to be more aggressive in their language and reporting.  Now, that is not to say that there aren’t bloggers who adhere to strict standards; they absolutely exist. It’s just that the sheer volume of bloggers means more room for error in the field.

Figure Out If You Can Sue For Defamation

Before you decide to consult with a defamation lawyer, you may want to check a few basic elements to get a better idea if you even have a case.

  1. First check to see if the defamation statutes of limitations has run out in your jurisdiction if you’re filing in a state court. Check with a defamation lawyer to find out if you can sue in a federal court.
  2. If the statements in question were said in confidence, and therefore considered privileged, you may not have a case in some states. Check out this database of defamation laws in the 50 United States to see how your state deals with privileged comments as it relates to defamation.
  3. You don’t want your case dismissed outright, so make sure you have evidence proving that the statements in question are (a) false and (b) caused you harm. If your business is suffering, gather receivables to illustrate the downward trend and how it started around the time the defamatory information was published.

Once you’ve done those three things, and feel you’re ready to move forward with a claim, it’s time to contact a defamation lawyer. You also have the option of representing yourself – which is considered filing a pro se defamation of character lawsuit.

Good luck! If you’re ready to speak with a defamation attorney, get in touch. We’re here and ready to repair your good name.

TMZ Being Sued For Online Defamation

Kasey Kahl Is Suing TMZ For Defamation

Well, well, well, what do we have here! Notorious gossip-conglomerate TMZ was slapped with an online libel lawsuit. A TV bachelor is on the warpath, and he’s looking for a cool $20 million. Why? The Bachelor is convinced everyone will forever remember him as “the paint thinner guy.”

The litigious reality-celeb is Kasey Kahl – Season 6 “The Bachelorette” contestant who later went on to “Bachelor Pad” fame. On August 12, 2012, Kahl was arrested on 2 counts of felony assault, 1 count of felony battery and 1 count of public intoxication. The celebrity obsessed minions over at Harvey Levin’s media shop, with their finely tuned smut sensors, jumped on the story with the speed of Usain Bolt.

Unfortunately for TMZ, their mole gave them some bum information. The media outlet reported that Kahl was high on toluene – a drug-like ingredient in paint thinner. Later on, the gossip site admitted their mistake and recanted their statements. But Kahl, apparently, is not satisfied with the retractions.

Kahl is so convinced of the power and influence of TMZ that he filed a lawsuit claiming their report will cause Kahl to be remembered in the annals of history as the “paint thinner guy.” Kahl also has a healthy opinion of how much this alleged defamation is worth —  $20 million for libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Since Kahl is a “celebrity” (the courts don’t differentiate between real thespians and reality fame-seekers), in order for him to win this defamation lawsuit, he’ll have to prove actual malice.

The Khal case will most likely settle out of court, but you never know. If it does, there’s a good chance Kahl will be getting a lot less than $20 million.

Need a defamation lawyer? Get in touch.

Fair Comment As A Defense For Business Defamation

A business in Canada won’t give up on a defamation lawsuit involving Salmon and an environmental activist.

Plaintiffs in a business defamation lawsuit aren’t giving up easily. Mainstream Canada, a salmon farming and fishing company, is filing an appeal in the British Columbia Supreme Court over a business defamation case recently dismissed against Don Staniford, a salmon environmentalist. A case that explores the  “fair comment” defense against defamation – the lawsuit is one every activist should know.

What Started This Business Defamation Lawsuit

This Canadian business defamation lawsuit started when Staniford, an active member of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture, created and distributed material that said “Salmon Farming Kills Like Smoking.” While it may sound like your average, albeit aggressive, environmental activist screed, Mainstream Canada decided to take the statement literally and filed a defamation lawsuit against the non-profit and Staniford. “Salmon farming is not nearly as dangerous as smoking” is their angle.

Why This Business Defamation Case Was Originally Dismissed: Fair Comment

The Mainstream Canada v. Staniford business defamation lawsuit was originally dismissed; which was a little shocking, since Canada has some of the most plaintiff friendly defamation laws in the English-speaking world. Nevertheless, “fair comment” has always been an acceptable defense in defamation cases, and Staniford and co. successfully argued the point.

Click Here To Read More About Canadian Defamation Laws

Fair comment is a defamation defense that still plays a major role in Commonwealth countries like Canada and the UK. In short, fair comment allows people to voice their opinion about matters of public interest. So long as the ultimate goal of the statement in question is not malicious, fair comment may be the thing that gets a defamation defendant off.

In this particular business defamation case, the judge ruled that while the statements in question were, technically, defamatory – even malicious – the “dominant purpose” of Staniford’s actions was not animosity. In other words, Staniford truly believes that Salmon farming is destructive and his ultimate goal was to save fish, not hurt Mainstream Canada.

If This Case Was Being Tried In The United States, Could The Fair Comment Defense Be Used

The Mainstream Canada v. Staniford defamation case is playing out in a British Columbia court. If you live in the states, you may be wondering if the case would unfold in the same way here. The simple answer is yes, the Staniford case would have probably been dismissed by an American court, too; but the reasons for the dismissal would be different.

Ever since the Supreme Court handed down the ruling in New Yorks Times Co. v. Sullivan, a standard of “actual malice” is applied in many defamation lawsuits – meaning the plaintiff must prove that the defendant purposefully lied with the intent to harm the movant. But more than that, Staniford’s fliers would most likely be seen as political agitprop – and therefore not libelous.

Do you need to speak with a business defamation lawyer? If yes, contact us today. We have years of defamation litigation experience and can work with you to resolve your situation as quickly as possible. Sometimes all it takes is a cease and desist defamation letter to make the problem disappear.

Online Defamation Lawyers For Small- To Medium-Sized Businesses

defamation lawyerBusiness defamation against your small- to medium-sized company can lead to disaster. Whether you’re dealing with:

  1. a strongly worded, unflattering post on an online review website,
  2. a blog post that contains mis-information,
  3. a disparaging tweet or a Facebook update,

a business defamation lawyer can help rectify the situation. Falsehoods spread on the Internet faster than gossip at a PTA meeting, so the quicker you find a good online libel attorney, the better.

If your business has had the misfortune of being visited by the disparaging review genie, there are ways to get it removed. Let’s review a few options.

Business Defamation Removal: Kill ‘Em With Kindness

Sometimes posters post in the heat of the moment. As such, in certain circumstances, a polite email asking either the poster or the website operator to remove the offensive material is all that it will take to get it down. It doesn’t always work, but you’d be surprised at how often it does.

If that doesn’t do it, most travel review platforms allow for owners to reply or rebut reviews that operators feel are unfair or untruthful.

Business Defamation Removal: Get A Court Order

If the person who wrote the disparaging material in question does so under a “handle” or “alias” you may have to get a court order to find out their name. The reason why you would need to find out the name of your online accuser is if you want to send a cease and desist letter or file a defamation lawsuit.

A defamation attorney can prepare the necessary paperwork.

Business Defamation Removal: Send A Cease & Desist Defamation Letter

If you don’t have any luck trying to work things out amicably, with either the author of the offensive material or with the Website on which the material sits, it’s time to try a cease and desist letter. Consult with an Internet lawyer to find out if your best bet is sending a letter focusing on defamation, unfair business practices or another civil tort.

In many instances, a cease and desist letter is enough to stir an adversary into action. But not all entities are easily persuaded – especially if the material appears on one of the larger review sites, with considerable legal resources at their disposal.

However, that doesn’t mean that small- to medium-sized businesses should give up when faced with online disparagement. If a cease and desist letter doesn’t work, you can always file a lawsuit. While the process may take a tad bit longer than you’d like, the rewards can be significant.

File A Business Defamation Lawsuit

You can choose to pursue a defamation lawsuit pro se – meaning you represent yourself – or you can hire a defamation lawyer who has been winning slander and libel cases for years. A defamation attorney will first determine, based on the circumstances, the friendliest jurisdiction available to file the case. Then, they’ll work with you to craft the most convincing defamation case, using the most appropriate case law, while drawing upon their nuanced understanding of both state and federal defamation law.

Defamation Lawsuit Looming For Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong Defamation Lawsuit
Lance Armstrong may be sued over a defamation lawsuit he won in 2006.

Looks like Lance Armstrong is facing more defamation headaches. This time around, UK-based newspaper, The London Sunday Times, is publicly considering suing the famous former cyclist to recoup monies lost in a 2006 libel lawsuit filed by Armstrong.

As you’ve surely heard by now, the Tour de France champ was summarily stripped of his wins on account of what the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency called an “overwhelming” amount of evidence that Armstrong not only doped, but also helped teammates dope.

The verdict handed down by the USADA came after years of speculation that Armstrong’s “super human” abilities were not the sole result of hard work. During those years, many media outlets published reports that either flat out accused Armstrong of doping or strongly suggested dirty deeds. One of those outlets was the London Sunday Times.

In 2004, the periodical wrote an article that referenced a popular book critical of Armstrong entitled “L.A. Confidential — Les Secrets de Lance Armstrong.” Noteworthy is that the book was co-written by David Walsh, a London Sunday Times reporter.

Armstrong sued for defamation over the article and won, largely because the UK has the most plaintiff-friendly libel laws in the world (but that is all about to change due to a defamation reform bill currently being debated and passed in Parliament).

The USADA published 1,000 pages of evidence against Armstrong and declared he was involved in “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” As a result, those who were forced to pay out previously are looking to recoup their costs. The London Sunday Times is one of those entities. Specifically, reports are saying that The Times is “considering taking action to recover money spent on a libel case Armstrong brought and to pursue him for fraud.”

We’ll have to wait to see what tact the newspaper chooses in this defamation situation. In the meantime, Lance Armstrong has much bigger things to worry about, like not being re-upped as a Nike endorser and stepping down from Livestrong.

The Los Angeles Defamation Lawsuit Of The Decade Underway

Ladies and gentlemen, grab your popcorn! The Los Angeles defamation lawsuit of the decade is underway. In one corner we have mother of Disney starlet, turned pop-sensation, turned don’- do-drugs poster-child, turned X-Factor judge, Lynne Spears. In the other corner we have Sam “I was Britney’s manager during breakdown-gate” Lufti.

Here’s the libel lowdown:

1) In 2008, Britney Spears’ mother, Lynne, wrote a book called “Through the Storm: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World.”

2) In 2009, Sam Lufti sued over accounts in the book that he allegedly tried to manipulate Britney.

3) Last month it was determined that Britney couldn’t testify at the trial on account of her conservatorship.

4) Jury selection started, in a Los Angeles court room, on Friday.

The Specific Accusations In This Los Angeles Defamation Lawsuit

The statements causing Lufti the most heartburn are accusations that he was a manipulative “general” that used the paparazzi as “henchmen” against the then-troubled starlet. According to reports, Lynne’s book painted Britney’s then-manager as a money hungry opportunist who would isolate and manipulate her fragile daughter. Essentially, Lynne blamed Sam for Britney’s now infamous public meltdown.

What Is Lufti Claiming? Libel.

Evidenced by his defamation lawsuit in Los Angeles, Mr. Lufti denies Lynne’s claims. In fact, he insists that he only ever had Brit’s best interests in mind. His decisions, he says, were based on him trying to get her off the bad stuff. The accusations, Lufti asserts, were so damaging that he has been “subjected to unfathomable amounts of ridicule and public scorn” since they were published.

Lufti is also suing for damages, claiming that he played a major role in the success of Britney’s 2007 album “Blackout” and therefore deserves to be compensated for such.

The Role “Actual Malice” Will Play In This Los Angeles Defamation Lawsuit

The Lufti v. Spears celebrity defamation kerfuffle will definitely involve discussion of actual malice. Why? Because Britney, Lynne and arguably Sam (hey, he thrust himself into the spotlight during his Spears’ sidekick years) are all public figures. Ever since the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in the groundbreaking case, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan that public figures, in a defamation lawsuit, must prove that their adversary acted with either a) reckless disregard for the truth or b) purposefully lied to cause material or reputational damage. As Spears’ lawyer put it, “the burden is on Lutfi to prove that the statements in the book are untrue and that his client knew they were false.”

This is not the first legal battle the Spears family has had with Lufti. Several years ago, they got a restraining order against the now-plaintiff that forbade him from being near or contacting Britney. That order has since expired.

The case is expected to take about three weeks and will be heard in a California court. Wonder if the true lottery winner of this whole saga, Kevin “popozao” Federline will get a few extra thou this month for babysitting, while the rest of the clan in caught up in court?

Update: The judge threw the case out! Looks like Lufti lost this Los Angeles defamation lawsuit.