The best defamation news and happenings for September 2014.
Jurisdiction Matters: The Case Of The British Doctor In Texas
In 1998, editors at The Lancet (a medical journal) published a controversial research paper penned by doctor-most-likely-to-be-quoted-by-Jenny-McCarthy, Dr. Andrew J. Wakefield. His conclusion: certain childhood vaccines may cause autism.
In 2011, the British Medical Journal published a paper debunking Wakefield’s research, in which the author characterized Wakefield’s work as “fraudulent” and a “fix.”
In response, Dr. Wakefield filed a libel lawsuit in Texas – his current place of residence.
But the trial judge dismissed the doctor’s libel claim over lack of jurisdiction. The bench reasoned that both parties were Brits and that the article wasn’t popular enough in Texas to affect Wakefield’s reputation.
Since then, Wakefield has been appealing up a storm. And this month, a third Texas court heard his case. Wakefield was denied, once again.
“Wild Thing” Goes For Defamation Score
Remember everybody: It’s not defamation if it’s true!
But it looks like Mitch “wild thing” Williams didn’t get the memo. The former MLB Network employee is suing Deadspin for defamation over an article about his less-than-sportsman-like conduct at a little league game.
Williams was eventually fired from his day job over the incident. So, he decided to file a wrongful termination suit against the MLB Network and an online libel suit against Deadspin.
The kink in his case is that he already apologized for his behavior at the game, which is the same as admitting he behaved as reported. And remember: it’s not defamation if it is true…..(well, most of the time).
State Farm Insurance Loses Again In 14.5M Defamation Suit
For several years, State Farm Insurance has been on the losing end of a high-profile, high-dollar defamation lawsuit. A contractor sued the insurance company over accusations of fraud after a 2006 hail storm, which resulted in an onslaught of claims.
The case went to trial, and the contractor won $14.5 million – one of the largest defamation verdicts in U.S. history.
State Farm cut the check but is still trying to get its money back. In the latest attempt, the company tried to evoke a little-known civil law that allows judges to re-order a trial in an already decided case.
But it didn’t work. The appeals panel reasoned that State Farm had the “panoply of pretrial discovery devices” at their disposal from the beginning. Just because State Farm didn’t take advantage of the discovery process then, does not mean it should be able to fix its “mistake” now.
Obviously, the contractor is thrilled with the decision, but State Farm has vowed to continue fighting the verdict.
Company Held Liable For Libel Over Employee Email
Businesses aren’t responsible for defamation over something said in an employee e-mail, right? Wrong.
This month, a judge ruled that a medical business was legally liable for an unflattering email that an employee sent out about another employee.
Now, does this ruling mean that every business is responsible for every employee email? No. But since this email had to do with work, the company must take the fall.
Defamation, On Ice
In September, Bedazzled Ice Prince Johnny Weir’s estranged husband, Victor Weir-Voronov, dragged the former Olympian into court.
During the Sochi games, infamously out-going Weir took a break from his color commentating to trash-talk his man, on-air. Accusations of disease and “sexual misconduct” fell out of Johnny’s mouth during an Olympic broadcast.
Georgetown Law grad Weir-Voronov describes Johnny’s tirade as a “crusade of defamation.”
If this case makes it inside the courtroom, it’s sure to be an HLN/CrimeTime favorite. Why? Because Johnny is notoriously flamboyant and hyperbolic, which, theoretically, may just work in his favor here, since a statement must be believable for it to be defamatory.
What Are You Hiding, Feds?
Hmmmm, what’s going on here. The U.S. Department of Justice is intervening – going so far as to exercise state secret privileges — in a private, overseas libel lawsuit between Greek mogul Victor Restis and the association United Against Nuclear Iran.
Speculation, of course, is rampant – but we’ll probably never learn the true answer. At least not anytime in the near – or medium-near – future.
Lifetime Movie Network’s Artistic License Is on Trial
There’s acceptable artistic license, and then there’s egregious artistic license — and Ms. Daun Slagle insists that the Lifetime Network producers crossed the line in one of its made-for-TV movie masterpieces.
In the 1990s, Daun was a victim of serial killer Keith Jesperson. Luckily for Ms. Slagle, she escaped death at his hands.
Lifetime Network immortalized the travesty in the late-afternoon, basic-cable hit, Happy Face Killer, in which producer’s indulged in a little artistic license when it came to Slagle’s story. In the movie, Slagle is characterized as a “prostitute whore (TM real housewife)” who performs fellatio on Jesperson in front of her baby, and then falsely reports him in a rape-extortion scheme.
Slagle swears the portrayal is rubbish. So, she is suing for defamation.
My guess? Either a) Lifetime has proof that Slagle isn’t as angelic as she swears or b) a settlement will be reached soon, and Slagle will be living large from here on out.
Cole Porter, Local Politics & Online Defamation: What DOES It All Mean?
A politician who thinks AIDS is the result of man-monkey copulation is being sued for online defamation. Stacey Campfield is his name, and blogging about other officials is his game.
Back in 2008, in the heat of national elections, Tennessee state representative Campfield published a blog post accusing state house candidate Roger Byrge of having “multiple separate drug arrests.”
But Campfield got his facts wrong. Candidate Byrge was not the same person as drug user Byrge.
Unluckily for the incumbent, Campfield’s source swears he warned of the information’s murkiness.
At first, a judge dismissed the case, saying that he could “see how you could mess that up. It is what it is.” But the TN Court of Appeals did not agree, ruling that Byrge has every right to move forward with a defamation lawsuit – especially since Campfield was warned about the accusation’s truthiness.
Real Housewife Headed To Defamation Court, Courtesy of Ex-Beau
Last October, former Real Housewife of Beverly Hills, Camille Grammar, got into a physical fight with her then-boyfriend Dimitri Charalambopoulos. According to Camille, the altercation went down in a Texas hotel room soon after she had undergone cancer surgery.
When the news first hit, Camille’s rendition of events cast Dimitri as the bad guy. But he soon filed a defamation suit, insisting that Camille was spewing lies. His side of the story? Camille went housewife-crazy after seeing a text message from another woman on his phone.
Now Camille is trying to get his defamation case dismissed. Her main argument (condensed): She never actually said Dimitri’s name, so her comments weren’t defamatory. Will she win this dismissal? Probably not — but stranger things have happened.
Did The Delivery Woman Do It In The Driveway?
“Condensate from a vehicle is clear. This was definitely tinted yellow.”
That’s what one Mr. Michael Wilson said when a reporter asked him about an online defamation lawsuit filed against him by Shamrock Delivery, a FedEx contractor.
According to Wilson, several months back, a Shamrock delivery woman urinated on his driveway after delivering a package. He caught the incident on video and posted it to YouTube. It went viral – even made the news in some areas.
But the Shamrock driver insists that Wilson didn’t see pee; he saw leaked air-conditioning fluid that pooled while she was idling, trying to avoid a Rottweiler.
Drunk Driving Death Leads To Defamation Lawsuit
Augustine Bangura, a Pennsylvania resident, is suing several media outlets – including the AP, ABC, CBS and NBC — over reports of his 2013 car accident that resulted in a tragic death.
According to police, Bangura failed a field sobriety test, and the media reported so. But Bangura insists that the breathalyser must have malfunctioned because he was not under the influence at the time of his arrest. Bangura also insists that nobody read him Miranda rights.
Contrarily, law enforcement officials swear that Miranda rights were read and that Bangura’s memories are most definitely alcohol impaired.
If the police have proof that Bangura was over the legal limit, this case will be dismissed faster than a fiber connection.
Defamation Bout: Allred v. Mayweather?
OMG, y’all: a Gloria Allred v. Floyd Mayweather showdown is afoot!
The notoriously outspoken attorney is representing Mayweather’s former fiancé, Shantel Jackson, in a lawsuit against Mayweather. The accusations include assault, battery, invasion of privacy and defamation.
In terms of the libel charge, Jackson is upset that Mayweather accused her, on Facebook, of having an abortion.
September 2014 “Libel Littles”
- The North Carolina judge who won a $6 million defamation lawsuit reached a settlement with her accusers – http://www.counton2.com/story/26464919/settlement-reached-in-judges-6m-defamation-award
- Another local political online defamation suit. This one involves Facebook, accusations of mental illness and a sheriff’s race – http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-lake-county-undersheriff-files-suit-facebook-comments-20140910-story.html
- A state senate race in Boston turned ugly – and it may result in a politician v. politician defamation lawsuit – http://www.boston.com/news/local/new-hampshire/2014/09/20/sen-shaheen-campaign-rips-defamatory-attempt-link-her-year-old-felony/ACdphCpXMe3Zwqy4UupYZK/story.html
- A substitute teacher is suing a school district for defamation over its insistence that she made a bomb threat (she says it’s a “patently false” accusation). If she is telling the truth, she is going to win big – http://www.theoaklandpress.com/general-news/20140926/rochester-teacher-sues-birmingham-public-schools-for-defamation-after-being-fired