Former 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:
- The statements in question was untruthful and harmed a reputation or that of a business;
- The statement was communicated to others; and
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.