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Libel Via Twitter Trial Ends With a Defense Win

 

In the world of defamation, there have long been two categories, which until recently, have covered all forms of defamation: slander, which includes any verbal defamation of a person or entity and; libel, which covers any defamatory comments made in writing. Now, with the growth of communicating over the internet, it appears that a new category of defamation is developing.

As courts continue to struggle to adapt the law to new and changing technology, a lawyer, Rhonda Holmes, has filed a defamation lawsuit against her former client, Courtney Love, for comments made on Twitter. Holmes was representing Love in a case Love wanted to bring regarding the estate of her late husband, Kurt Cobain. Love allegedly sent a Twitter message which claimed that Holmes had been “bought off” concerning the case.

Love’s current attorneys have argued that the language used on Twitter is hasty and opinionated, and as such, should not be treated the same as language used in a more formal setting. That argument though, appears not to hold much weight given Holmes’s recent testimony. In a sworn statement, Holmes said that Love agreed to settle the case for $600,000 and make a retraction of her defamatory statement. Love then allegedly failed to pay up and republished the offending comment.Barry Langberg, the attorney representing Holmes in the present lawsuit, claims that Love’s tweet was part of “a concerted effort … to destroy Ms. Holmes and her law firm.”
The lawsuit also includes subsequent critical statements that Love made in an online article about an unnamed female attorney. The court will consider whether Holmes’s reputation and business could have been affected by those comments.

John Lawrence, one of Love’s attorneys in the current lawsuit, says that, at the time that she made the defamatory comments on Twitter, Love believed that she had been abandoned by Holmes and her firm. However, Love’s beliefs at the time that she made the comment may not count if she later republished the comment.

Langberg claims that Holmes was devastated when Love fired her, but Love says she never fired her. Instead, Love did say, “in my mind I let her go”.

This is the first lawsuit in the United States to reach a trial court based on alleged defamation happening on Twitter. Poynter Institute has called it the first “Twibel” trial in the country. The decision that the court reaches in this case will have far-reaching consequences for similarly cases all over the country. The Los Angeles Superior Court rejected the assertion that comments made by Love on Twitter should be treated any differently than comments made in a more formal setting. If other courts make similar rulings in line with that of the Los Angeles Superior Court, it could change the way defamation cases are argued in our court system.
Since defamation is, by definition, comments made which are public and harmful, it makes sense that a court would not be lenient with a defendant who made defamatory comments on a social media site as public as Twitter.

After the Court’s ruling the case went to trial. After just four hours deliberating, the jury determined that Love had published the tweet, and that it was false. 11 of the jurors concluded the false statements would harm Holmes’s reputation. But the jury ruled 9-3 that Holmes’s lawyers had failed to prove that Love knew at the time that the statement was false, and so could not be found liable of defamation.

Although the jury did not award Holmes the $8 million she was claimed Love should pay as damages, Holmes’s attorney, Mitchell Langberg told Reuters that Holmes felt pleased her reputation restored. “What she’s really happy about is when the jury found that she didn’t get bought off, that she didn’t abandon her client for money.”


Our Chicago libel attorneys concentrate in this area of the law. We have defended or prosecuted a number of defamation and libel cases including cases representing a high profile athlete against a well known radio shock jock, a consumer sued by a large car dealer in federal court for negative internet reviews and videos, one of Loyola University’s largest contributors when the head basketball coach sued him for libel after he was fired, a lawyer who was falsely accused of committing fraud with the false allegation published to the Dean of the University of Illinois School of Law where the lawyer attended law school and the President of the University of Illinois.

Our Chicago defamation lawyers defend individuals’ First Amendment and free speech rights to post on Facebook, Yelp and other websites information that criticizes businesses and addresses matters of public concern. Our Chicago Cybersquatting attorneys also represent and prosecute claims on behalf of businesses throughout the Chicago area including in Wheeling, and Palatine, who have been unfairly and falsely criticized by consumers and competitors in defamatory publications in the online and off line media. We have successfully represented businesses who have been the victim of competitors setting up false rating sites and pretend consumer rating sites that are simply forums to falsely bash or business clients. We have also represented and defended consumers First Amendment and free speech rights to criticize businesses who are guilty of consumer fraud and false advertising.

Super Lawyers named Chicago and Oak Brook business trial attorneys Peter Lubin and Vincent DiTommaso Super Lawyers in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation and Consumer Rights Litigation. DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle’s Oak Brook and Chicago business trial lawyers have over a quarter of century of experience in litigating complex class action, consumer rights and business and commercial litigation disputes. We handle emergency business law suits involving injunctions, and TROS, defamation, libel and covenant not to compete, franchise, distributor and dealer wrongful termination and trade secret lawsuits and many different kinds of business disputes involving shareholders, partnerships, closely held businesses and employee breaches of fiduciary duty. We also assist businesses and business owners who are victims of fraud or defamatory attacks on their business and reputations.

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DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle’s Wheaton and Lisle defamation and libel attorneys have more than two and half decades of experience helping business clients unravel the complexities of Illinois and out-of-state business laws. Our Chicago business, commercial, class-action and consumer litigation lawyers represent individuals, family businesses and enterprises of all sizes in a variety of legal disputes, including disputes among partners and shareholders as well as lawsuits between businesses and and consumer rights, auto fraud, and wage claim individual and class action cases. In every case, our goal is to resolve disputes as quickly and successfully as possible, helping business clients protect their investments and get back to business as usual. From offices in Oak Brook, near Arlington Hts. and Schaumburg, we serve clients throughout Illinois and the Midwest.

If you are the victim of a defamatory attack on your business or a consumer who has been sued to stop you from posting criticism of a business on line at Yelp or anywhere else, contact one of our Oak Brook and Chicago defamation lawyers for a free consultation at (877) 990-4990 or online by filling out our contact us form.