Texas Defamation Roundup: A Topix Scandal & A Sports Showdown

Texas defamation news and lawyer contact information
Texas Defamation News Update

Maybe it’s old fashioned pride or perhaps Texans enjoy a spot of gossip. Regardless, the Lone Star State is birthplace to many a defamation lawsuit.

In this blog post, we’ll review a pair of reputation-related cases grabbing headlines in Texas. To read, keep scrolling. If you’re ready to speak with a Texas defamation attorney about getting your name removed from a website or litigating against an adversary for posting defamatory statements online, contact Kelly / Warner Law.

Businessman Sues for Online Defamation over Weather Reporter Scandal

Some years back, in Lubbock Texas, a local TV weather woman, Nikki Dee Ray, became entangled in a bit of a selfie scandal. Immodest pics, of what allegedly appeared to be her, were splashed across the Internet. An anonymous leaker had posted the goods on Topix.com, and another unknown person linked local businessman, Chet Pharies, to the scandal.

Presumably unimpressed, Pharies sued the anonymous poster (“John Doe”) for online defamation because he felt “his [Pharies’] moral character, in both his private, married life and as a business owner” were being disparaged.

Since the leaker’s real name is unknown, Pharies first had to get a court order compelling “John Doe’s” ISP to hand over identifying information. And Pharies succeeded. The presiding judge told Suddenlink Communications to give Pharies data that’ll help unearth the user who linked him to the scandal.

As for Nikki Dee Ray? Well, she left Lubbock a few months back. No word, yet, if she’ll be involved in the suit.

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Texas Football Coach Denied Defamation Trial

For several years, former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach and former ESPN broadcaster Craig James have been entangled in a feud. Some might call it a typical parent-coach dispute.

The sportscaster’s son, Adam James, played at Texas Tech under Leach and suffered a concussion during his tenure on the team. According to media reports, Leach allegedly punished Adams by making him stand in a dark room during practices that Adam couldn’t participate in because of a doctor’s concussion assessment.

At Leach’s insistence, Pincock shared that statement with James. Then he led him off the field to a shed that housed blocking dummies, watercoolers, an ice machine and an ATV. Injured players would sometimes go there to ride a stationary bike. Virtually spotless, the brand-new structure had a tacky, rubberlike floor and an overhead, garage-style pull-down door, as well as a man door on the side. There were overhead lights but no windows. Aided by freshman student-trainer Jordan Williams, Pincock removed anything that James could sit on and made sure the lights were off. He told James that Leach wanted him to remain standing in the dark for the duration of practice. From: http://www.si.com/college-football/2013/09/09/system-leach-excerpt

The situation mushroomed, and to shorten a long story, Texas Tech brass asked Leach to leave the football team. Since Leach’s termination was a high-profile sports story, ESPN reported on the event.

In opposition to his termination, and related subsequent reporting, Leach filed lawsuits against various parties – including Craig James and ESPN. For what? According to Leach’s lawsuit, Craig James allegedly provided inaccurate information, regarding the incident with his son, to the media outlet.

But so far, Texas judicial officials seem to think little of Leach’s slander case. The trial court and 7th Texas Court of Appeals both dismissed the coach’s action. Furthering, the Texas Supreme Court also denied the case, which pretty much seals its fate. Sure, Team Leach could file another appeal, but it is unlikely.

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Got Questions for a Texas Defamation Lawyer?

Kelly / Warner supports Texans and Texas-based businesses dealing with defamation and trade libel issues. We help individuals get defamatory information removed from websites, and also work with companies being targeted by overly aggressive competitors.

Contact us to start asking your online reputation legal questions.

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Sports Defamation Case Study: Ringside Doc v. WWE Champ

sports defamation case study: doctor v. wwe star
A sports defamation lawsuit has crash-landed into the world of the WWE.

A retired World Wrestling Entertainment (“WWE”) super star, CM Punk, is being sued by a ringside doctor named Christopher Amann. The two men became entangled in a sports defamation battle after Punk criticized Amann on a popular wrestling podcast. Who will most likely win this slander lawsuit? We’ll deconstruct the lawsuit below.

Who is CM Punk?

Phil “CM Punk” Brooks was the 6th most prolific WWE champion. His claim to fame – or shtick – was being a “straight edge wrestler.” Now, he’s a mixed martial arts athlete who recently signed with the UFC.

Since parting ways with the WWE, Punk has been an outspoken critic of the organization. Specifically, he’s lambasted the level of medical care offered.

Why is CM Punk involved in a Doctor Defamation Lawsuit?

Enter Doctor Christopher Amann. Since 2010, he’s been a ringside doctor for the WWE.

In November, CM Punk was a guest on “The Art of Wrestling” – Colt Cabana’s popular podcast. During the interview, Punk let loose about his feelings regarding the professional prowess of the WWE’s medical staff. Bloodyelbow.com paraphrases Punk’s comments in this way:

Punk claimed in the podcast that the doctor repeatedly misdiagnosed a large mass on his back, continuing to give him antibiotics to treat it instead of seeing it for what it was. When it started to grow, Punk stated that he eventually went to his wife’s doctor, who immediately diagnosed it as a staph infection and sent him to the hospital to get it cut it out. He said that he worked with the staph infection for three months and that he could have died from it. He also claimed that the doctor improperly treated him for concussions.

Dr. Amann isn’t thrilled with CM’s characterization and insists that:

“the duo’s statements were false, defamatory and put him in a false light by improperly insinuating ‘a lack of integrity … and/or inability or lack of competence to perform his professional duties as a medical doctor.’ ”

As recompense, Amann wants $1 million in punitive and actual damages.

What are the Doctor’s Chances of Winning This Sports Defamation Lawsuit?

To win defamation lawsuits in the United States, slander and libel plaintiffs must prove that:

  • The defendant spoke or published a false statement of fact about the plaintiff;
  • The defendant’s statement caused material or reputational harm to the plaintiff; and
  • The defendant acted with either negligence or actual malice.

In this instance, to win, Amann must prove that Punk’s assertions were a pack of lies; that he didn’t misdiagnose Punk’s ailment; that he didn’t improperly treat him for concussions. If the WWE medic can prove he correctly diagnosed Punk, Amann may be one step closer to winning this doctor defamation case.

But Amann has to clear another defamation obstacle – intent.

In this case, a judge will most likely deem both parties “public figures” since they are – or were – staples on the WWE circuit. As such, Amann will most likely have to prove actual malice. Meaning, he must provide evidence that Punk purposefully and knowingly lied with the express purpose of causing harm for Amann.

That means that if Punk can adequately convince a judge or jury that he truly believed his statements – even if they turn out to be untrue – he probably won’t be found liable for slander.

Amann, however, must have some evidentiary bullets stowed up his sleeve. After all, he’s opting to move forward with this suit, presumably after consulting a defamation attorney, who probably explained the strict standards of U.S. defamation law.

Consult with Kelly / Warner: We Handle Both Doctor Defamation and Sports Defamation Cases

Kelly / Warner is a top-rated defamation law firm. (To verify, please visit our Martindale.com page, Avvo.com profile and Yelp page.)

Our lawyers handle both sports defamation cases and doctor defamation cases. Over the years, we’ve successfully resolved situations for both slander and libel plaintiffs and defendants.

To speak with an attorney, get in touch here.

Sports Defamation Case: Retired NHL Player v. Blogging Ref

sports defamation attorneys
Will a retired NHL player win his defamation lawsuit against a ref-turned-blogger?

Retired NHL player Eric Lindros filed a sports defamation lawsuit, in Canadian court, against referee-cum-columnist Paul Stewart. Lindros isn’t impressed with a post penned by Stewart for the Huffington Post, and former power forward wants $250,000 in compensation.

Is Canadian defamation law on Lindros’ side? What about U.S. libel law? Let’s discuss.

Why Lindros Is Suing An NHL Referee For Libel

Stewart penned an online missive for the Huffington Post entitled “Hecklers, Hooligans and the Striped-Shirted Maitre D”. In it, Stewart waxed poetic about life as an NHL ref — commercial break banter and fan friendships.

Stewart also served up some behind-the-scenes gossip and dished on a few players, including the Steve Francis of professional hockey, Eric Lindros. Unabashed in his disdain for the former Flyer, Stewart says:

“Eric Lindros was a player I got off with on the wrong foot and we never developed a rapport because neither he nor I wanted one.”

Stewart goes on to recount:

“During the delay, I made small talk with several of the Devils and Flyers on the ice. I said hello to Mark Recchi and talked to Bernie Nicholls. I then tried to greet the 19-year-old rookie Lindros.

“‘Hey, Eric. How are things going? How’s your dad?’ I asked.

“The response: ‘[Bleep] you. Just drop the [bleeping] puck already.’

“Lindros was apparently in a bad mood because he’d recently missed 12 games with a knee injury, the team was in a losing skid, and he’d had a tough game in New Jersey. This game was also played about a week after Lindros had to go to court in Toronto after the Koo Koo Bananas incident. You know what? Those were his problems, not mine. But we were about to have a mutual problem.

“Right off the opening faceoff, Lindros bulled forward and drilled Nicholls under the chin with his stick. I ditched Lindros on a high-sticking penalty.

“Before the game, I had brought a tube filled with posters to Flyers’ equipment manager Jim “Turk” Evers. The posters, which depicted Recchi and Lindros, were to be autographed and then donated to a charity auction. I had done a similar thing in other cities, such as a Cam Neely and Ray Bourque poster in Boston, and a Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in Pittsburgh.

“After the game, I went to Turk to collect the poster tube.

“‘Stewy, you’re not going to like this,’ Evers said. ‘I don’t have them.’

“‘What do you mean you don’t have them?’ I asked.

“‘Well, Rex signed the posters but when Eric found out they were for you, he tore every one of them up. I’m sorry about that.’

“I never spoke to Eric Lindros again.”

Lindros’ Sports Defamation Lawsuit

Lindros swears that Stewart is telling stick stories. Most notably, Lindros contends that:

  • He never cursed at Stewart during their first relayed encounter; and
  • The incident with the posters never happened.

So, Lindros filed a libel lawsuit. At first, he asked for a few million dollars but has since lowered that figure to $250,000.

Can Lindros Win This Case?

Will Lindros win? In Canada, he may have a shot.

Currently, Canada has the most plaintiff-friendly libel laws in the English-speaking world. In several regards, Canadian defamation law is the opposite of U.S. defamation law. Unlike American slander and libel plaintiffs, Canadian claimants don’t have to prove falsity, damages or intent. Moreover, Canadian slander and libel law operates on a “reverse onus” standard, meaning it’s the defendant’s responsibility to prove the statement was either:

  1. Fair Comment or Criticism;
  2. Truthful;
  3. Honest Reportage; or
  4. Innocent Dissemination.

In the Lindros sports defamation case, it may come down to whether or not Turk – the equipment manager who relayed the poster-ripping message — will testify to that fact. If he does, Stewart could emerge victorious in this case; if he doesn’t, Lindros, in theory, could win this sports defamation claim.

Would Lindros Win His Defamation Lawsuit In A U.S. Court?

What about in a U.S. court? Would Lindros’ chances be as good as they are in Canadian court? In a phrase: absolutely not.

Unlike Canadian slander and libel claimants, the majority of U.S. defamation plaintiffs must prove falsity, damages and some sort of negligence on the part of the defendant. Some American defamation plaintiffs don’t have to prove damages if the statements are deemed defamatory per se, meaning the communication is inherently damaging (i.e., calling someone a criminal). Though the majority of states do allow for defamatory per se claims, some don’t. To look up your states defamation laws, go here.

Since Stewart’s article appeared on Huffingtonpost.ca, Lindros also included Huffington Post, AOL Inc. and AOL Canada Inc. as defendants.

Further Reading And International Defamation Attorney Contact

For a quick reference chart that outlines the difference between Canadian and U.S. defamation law, go here. To read more about Canadian defamation standards, go here; for U.S, here.

Kelly / Warner has extensive experience with cross-border defamation lawsuits – particularly Internet defamation cases. In the past, we’ve successfully represented clients across the U.S. and Canada.

To speak with a sports defamation attorney, with international experience, get in touch with Kelly / Warner Law today.

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Sports Defamation: Miller v. Mile High City? (Nah.)

sports defamation lawsuit speculation
Will a former Denver Nugget file a sports defamation lawsuit?

Is another sports defamation lawsuit on the way?

Nah, probably not. Nevertheless, former Mile High City point guard Andre Miller recently hit headlines for publicly waxing poetic about his former team and coach Brian Shaw.

Now, to be crystal clear, the words “sports defamation” or “lawsuit” – so far as we know – have never crossed Miller’s lips, but a few media outlets have made the connection — and it got us thinking: would Miller have a solid sports defamation suit in this instance?

Let’s take a look at the facts and engage in some sports defamation speculation, shall we?

What Has Reporters Wondering If A Sports Defamation Suit Is On The Way?

Our tale of possible sports defamation woe began on January 1, 2014. People around the world were tending to headaches or cracking on their resolutions. Denver Nuggets point guard Andre Miller, however, was ostensibly nursing pent-up frustrations and dealing with the end of his 239-game-on-court streak.

According to reports, the “coaches’ decision” to bench Miller erupted in a heated exchange between Miller and NBA veteran/gumshoe head coach, Shaw. A locker room blow-up punctuated the incident. Apparently, disparagement and frustrations were shared by all – loudly.

Later, when asked about the incident by Yahoo! Sports, Miller chided, “I was made out to be the bad guy, the villain, because I was the one complaining about minutes. That wasn’t the issue at all.”
He continued:

“I came out and represented the organization, played games, practiced and did it the right way. Don’t bash me. It’s not true saying I was disgruntled about minutes and complaining. In reality, I was just speaking up for guys on the team and being a veteran leader. I was just doing my job.”

Who Would Probably Win In Our Hypothetical Miller v. Nuggets Sports Defamation Lawsuit?

What would be the likely outcome of a hypothetical Miller v. Denver Nuggets sports defamation lawsuit? Bluntly speaking, he’d probably lose. No, let me re-phrase that, he’d most definitely lose (unless public reports are missing key information).

Why is it unlikely that Miller would emerge victorious in our hypothetical sports defamation lawsuit?

In order to win a sports slander or libel lawsuit in the U.S., plaintiffs must prove that:

  1. The defendant made a public false statement of fact (Internet postings count);
  2. The false statement of fact caused damage to the plaintiff’s reputation or bank account; and
  3. The defendant acted either negligently or with actual malice.

Since Miller is a “public figure,” he would have to meet actual malice standards to win a sports defamation lawsuit. You can read more about actual malice here. To give you a quick (incomplete) definition, actual malice occurs when a person knowingly lies, with the intent of causing another person or entity harm. In this case, it sounds like nobody lied, but simply expressed their negative opinions about the other parties.

Miller and the Nuggets’ coaching staff begrudgingly shook hands and parted ways after the 1/1/14 incident. At the trade deadline, management traded Miller to the Washington Wizards where he is now averaging 3.9 points and 3.2 assists per game.

Contact A Sports Defamation Law Firm

Kelly / Warner handles all types of sports defamation lawsuits. Our batting average is great – and we get the job done quickly. Get in touch today to learn more about your sports defamation legal options.

Sports Defamation Case: Pacquaio v. Mayweather

sports defamation case study: Pacquaio v. MayweatherManny Pacquaio sued Floyd Mayweather for defamation. Here’s a 1-minute summary of the sports defamation lawsuit.

Doping Allegations Lead To Lawsuit

During the lead-up to a 2010 match, Mayweather, his father, and his promotion company, Golden Boy Promotions, accused Pacquaio of using performance enhancing drugs.

In Pacquaio’s eyes, the accusations outstripped standard pre-bout trash talk. “Enough is enough,” he said. “These people…think it is a joke and a right to accuse someone wrongly of using steroids or other performance enhancing drugs.”

Pacquaio, who vehemently denies ever using PEDs of any form, at any time — and has never tested positive for banned substances — filed a sports defamation lawsuit against Mayweather in December of 2009. He assured:

“I maintain and assure everyone that I have not used any form or kind of steroids. I don’t even know what steroids look like.”

Drinking and Partying Instead of Deposing

Eventually, Judge Larry Hicks ordered Mayweather to sit for deposition, but the boxer never did, citing an intense training schedule. Unfortunately for Mayweather, Team Pacquaio had photos of Mayweather:

“Busy living the ‘luxurious lifestyle non-stop,’ ‘pour[ing] champagne for [his] friends,’ and keeping the company of ‘attractive women,’ Mayweather refused to be deposed.”

In other words: Team Pacquiao accused Mayweather of lying about his whereabouts to avoid the deposition.

Judge Hicks wasn’t impressed and ordered Mayweather to pay $113,518.50 in court costs and Pacquaio’s attorney fees.

How Did The  Pacquaio v. Mayweather Sports Defamation Case End?

Like most high-profile defamation lawsuits, this one came to a settlement close. The last word on the matter came from Mayweather’s attorneys:

“The matter has been resolved. Any alleged terms of the resolution would be strictly confidential. Floyd Mayweather Sr. is very happy that this lengthy case has finally come to a conclusion.”

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Golden Girl’s Parents File Defamation Lawsuit

gold medal defamation
Olympic Gold Medalist Tianna Madison Is Being Sued For Defamation By Her Parents. But Are They Doing It For The Money?

Some Olympians return home to ticker-tape parades;others get slapped with $50,000 defamation lawsuits.

Olympian’s Parents Sue For Slander

According to reports, the allegations surfaced during U.S. track and field star Tianna Madison’s pre-London 2010 Olympic interviews. The record-setting runner allegedly insinuated that her parents cheated her out of money and once welcomed Tianna’s known molester into their home.

The Details of the Defamation Lawsuit

Shocked by the allegations, Madison’s parents filed a defamation lawsuit, insisting that:

  1. They had spent approximately $100,000 supporting Tianna’s track and field career.
  2. They didn’t have any knowledge of any molestation of their daughter.

We Don’t Care About the Money,We Just Want Your Attention!

OK, so you may be thinking, “Boy, these parents sound like they’re taking advantage of their daughter’s success.” But Schott Schooler, the couples’ lawyer, says the opposite is true, insisting the only impetus is reconnecting with Tianna.

According to the claim, Madison’s parents allege:

  1. Their daughter’s behavior flip-flopped, at the alter, on account of her groom.
  2. The animosity reached a negative nadir when the husband supposedly sent a text message, to Tianna’s parents, about plans to expose their “controlling attitudes.” It’s unclear if any of these allegations are true.

How Did It All End?

In March 2013, Tianna’s parents’ lawyer released a statement. It read (in part):

“The parties and their representative announced that the parties will attempt to resolve this matter and the lawsuit will be dismissed prior to filing of an answer and counterclaim by Tianna Madison. There will be no monetary payment made by any party to any other party.

“The parties acknowledge that public comments and statements have been made that led to the legal dispute. At this time, Tianna Madison has expressed a desire to have no contact, business or otherwise, with [her family]. It is the hope of the family that they can bring about a resolution. The family will approach this matter with mutual hope and a spirit of forgiveness. The Madison family will hold fast to their hope and faith and their God.”

In other words, the parents dropped the case.

Interested in other slander and libel case studies?. Contact us.

Sport Defamation Lawsuit: Another New Orleans Bounty Scandal Case On The Way?

sport defamation case study

“Bountygate” Birthed A Couple of Sport Defamation Lawsuits

Doesn’t look like the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal is going away anytime soon. In fact, Anthony Hargrove may be the next athlete to enter the sport defamation ring with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

As we reported last week, Jonathan Vilma  is already suing Goodall for defamation over statements made regarding the Saint’s alleged “pay to injure” scheme.

Anthony Hargrove, former New Orleans’ Saint and current defensive tackle for the Green Bay Packers, was one of the players implicated in the scandal.

“Pay Me My Money”

In an infamous 2010 NFC championship video, Hargrove can be seen mouthing to a teammate, “Favre is done.” He was also pegged as the person saying, “Pay me my money,” on the recording. But here’s the rub: the “money” statement was said “off camera,” eliminating definitive proof that Hargrove uttered the words. Moreover, Earl Heyman – another player –said he was sitting next to the individual who made the comment and it wasn’t Hargrove.

Celebrities Have It Harder

Hargrove is a celebrity, and therefore would have to prove “actual malice” to win this sport defamation lawsuit. Meaning, he would have to prove that the party that released the tape — and attributed Hargrove’s voice to the ostensibly incriminating statement — did so willfully and recklessly.

Teammate: It wasn’t Him

According to CBS Sports, “people close to the situation who say almost everyone on the Saints team knows the identity of the voice on the tape and they say it’s not Hargrove.” If CBS Sports is correct, and Hargrove can subpoena a gaggle of teammates who will swear he didn’t say “pay me my money,” the defensive tackle could pass the actual malice test. In other words, Hargrove has a chance at winning a defamation claim against Goodall if his attorneys file a narrow claim focusing only on the “pay me my money” statement.

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NFL Bountygate Leads To Sport Defamation Lawsuit

sport defamation case studyUpdate: January 17th, 2013. Judge Helen Berrigan dismissed Jonathan Vilma’s sport defamation lawsuit against Roger Goodell. She reasoned: “While the Court is extremely disturbed by the fundamental lack of due process in (Commissioner) Goodell’s denying the players the identities and the right to confront their accusers, that was substantially rectified later in the process.”

***Original Article ***

In an off-season loaded with litigation, the NFL has given birth to yet another scandal — the alleged New Orleans Saints’ injury-for-money scheme.

‘Bountygate’ Background: The Makings of a Sport Defamation Lawsuit

What’s “bountygate”?

Well, allegedly, someone in the Saints ranks developed a slush fund to award bonuses for injuring opposing athletes. The investigations began in 2010, but the NFL swept it under the AstroTurf for awhile.

But by March 2012, the NFL couldn’t ignore the clamor; evidence pointed to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and about 20 odd players. According to reports, Williams and the team members pooled personal money to support the kitty. Some outlets even insinuated that head coach Sean Payton may have attempted a cover up.

NFL Decides To Play Hardball

When team owner, Tom Benson, ordered Payton and general manager, Mickey Loomis, to shut down the scheme, Loomis and Payton supposedly complied. Around this time, whispers circulated that Williams may have ran the same scheme when he was defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins and the Tennessee Oilers/Titans.

Whatever the case, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell decided to bring down the hammer. The carnage:

  • Williams – suspended indefinitely
  • Payton – 2012 season suspension
  • Loomis – eight 2012 season game suspension
  • Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt – six 2012 season game suspension
  • Saints organization – $500,000 fine and forfeiture of their second round draft choices for 2012 & 2013 seasons
  • Jonathan Vilma – suspended for 2012 season
  • Defensive End Will Smith – suspended for four 2012 games
  • Former Saints defender Anthony Hargrove – suspended for eight games
  • Former Saints defender Scott Fujita – suspended for three games

In May 2012, the NFL Players Association arbitrated against two of the suspension grievances and challenged Goodell’s authority to discipline players. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank ruled that Goodell’s authority does allow him to mete out punishment. The union is appealing the ruling.

Vilma Tackles Goodell With A Defamation Lawsuit

Not willing to take the penalties, Jonathan Vilma filed a sport defamation lawsuit against Goodell on May 17, 2012. He claimed his good name was dragged through the proverbial mud by Commissioner Goodell. Goodell has until July 5, 2012 to respond to Vilma’s claim.

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Kelly / Warner is a top-rated law firm that handles all manners of defamation cases, including sport defamation. To learn more about our practice, start here.