Not all defamation laws are created equal – especially when it comes to food products. Dubbed “veggie libel laws” and “food disparagement rules,” thirteen U.S. states have a separate set of standards for food-related trade libel — and Arizona is one of them.
Food producers insist that food disparagement laws are an essential elements of a healthy agricultural market. Food libel adversaries, however, think food libel laws defy the First Amendment and endanger John Q. and Jane Q. Public. Under United States law, the burden of proof usually falls on the plaintiff in defamation cases. In food libel lawsuits, though, the defendant must prove the statements are true.
Food Libel Laws 101: Who, What, When Where How
Thirteen states have food libel laws. The exact standards vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but all turn on the existence (or lack thereof) of “reliable scientific inquiry, facts or data.” In other words, if the defendant can’t provide indisputable scientific evidence to back up their disparaging food product claims, he or she can lose a veggie libel suit.
Scientific Data A Requirement In Food Disparagement Lawsuits
Now, providing scientific data may seem like a straightforward requirement. The problem, though, is that studies concerning the food industry are often commissioned by the food industry. Moreover, it’s costly to initiate a proper scientific study — or so argues food libel opponents.
Burden Of Proof Falls On The Defendant In Food Libel Lawsuits
Under United States defamation law, the burden of proof usually falls on the plaintiff. In food libel lawsuits, however, the defendant must prove the statements in question are true.
Attorneys Fees For Plaintiffs Only In Food Libel Lawsuits
Another difference between food libel laws and regular defamation laws is that food libel laws allow for punitive damages and attorney fees for the plaintiff, not the defendant, regardless of the outcome. Yes, you read that correctly: in food libel lawsuits, even if a plaintiff loses the case, the defendant may still be required to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees. As you can imagine, this aspect of the law is an effective deterrent for any high-profile news organization looking to avoid costly litigation. In food libel lawsuits, even if a plaintiff loses the case, the defendant may still be required to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees.
Specifics of Arizona Food Libel Law
Arizona has food libel laws – codified in the Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 3, Chapter 1, Article 2, entitled “Actions for false claims against perishable agricultural food product.” Primarily, the statute defines aspects of food libel law in Arizona. Namely:
- False information, in the realm of food disparagement rules, is defined as any statements “not based on reliable scientific facts and reliable scientific data and that the disseminator knows or should have known to be false.”
- Perishable Agricultural Food Products are defined as any agricultural, aquaculture (fish) or commodity grown or made in Arizona, which is sold or distributed in a form that will perish “within a reasonable period of time.”
- A producer under Arizona’s food disparagement laws is any party that manufactures or produces perishable agricultural food products.
- A shipper under AZ’s “veggie libel” statutes is any entity who “ships, transports, sells or markets” food stuffs, or any “person who first markets product on behalf of product producers.”
Contact Arizona Food Libel Lawyer
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