Articles Posted in Defamation, Libel and Slander

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The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives everyone the right to speak freely about virtually everything and everyone, so long as what they say is not false or doesn’t infringe on intellectual property rights. People are free to voice opinions that do not contain factually false information. This protection includes negative reviews of companies providing products and services, but many legislators currently feel that consumers are in need of an extra layer of protection.

The internet and review sites like Yelp have made it easier than ever for customers to post public reviews of companies as soon as the transaction has been completed. While that may not sound threatening, a few bad reviews can significantly decrease a company’s overall rating and hinder future business, even when the subject of the complaint is insignificant and arbitrary.

So businesses have started retaliating by including clauses in their consumer contracts that forbid their customers from posting negative online reviews. Some companies have even acted on their threats by taking legal action against consumers who post negative reviews, usually for unreasonably large amounts of money when compared the transaction in question. For example, one hotel in New York charged $500 per negative review posted to Yelp, while another company sued a couple in Utah for thousands of dollars over a negative review pertaining to a small purchase. Continue reading

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Although our laws are meant to protect everyone, regardless of income or social status, the fact remains that filing or defending oneself from a lawsuit costs money and hiring competent attorneys costs even more money. Many people simply don’t have the funds to pursue a dispute in court, and too often, large corporations, flush with assets and a dedicated legal team, are all too aware of that fact and they take advantage of it.

When someone files a lawsuit against a person or entity with the goal of silencing the defending party, it’s known as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP). Because SLAPPs tend to be aimed at those with fewer resources, corporations generally count on the defendant giving up the case and/or settling outside of court. But if a defendant decides to continue with the lawsuit, the plaintiff could be the one made to pay up in court.

Legislators know SLAPPs are unfair and harmful to our democracy, which is why many states have anti-SLAPP laws that punish people and organizations for filing a lawsuit purely with the intention of shutting someone up. Continue reading

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Peoples’ worst sides often come out on social media and online comments sections because there’s a sense of anonymity and unaccountability – even if that sense is misleading. Often people post whatever comes to mind without worrying about any consequences, but as one North Carolina woman recently found out the hard way, sometimes there are legal and financial consequences to what you allegedly say online.

According to a recent lawsuit filed in Asheville, NC, by Davyne Dial, Jacquelyn Hammond allegedly posted a Facebook comment, referring to Dial, that said, “I didn’t get drunk and kill my kid.”

Dial’s son had, in fact, been killed in an accidental shooting back in 1976, when the boy was eleven years old. Dial was not involved in the accident, but Hammond’s words hit her hard.

In her complaint, Dial alleged this was not the first defamatory comment Hammond had made about her online, but it was allegedly the last straw. Not only was it extremely painful, but it allegedly amounted to Hammond accusing Dial of committing manslaughter, which is a federal offense. Continue reading

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Few people take much of what Trump says seriously, especially when he goes on one of his Twitter rants. According to Judge Barbara Jaffe, a New York judge, that includes allegedly defamatory remarks Trump makes about people who criticizes him.

In the spring of 2015, Cheryl Jacobus, a public relations consultant, was allegedly invited by Trump’s campaign to interview for the position of communications director for the campaign. Jacobus said she declined because she did not want to work for Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager at the time.

More than six months later, Jacobus went on television to question Trump’s motives for threatening to not attend presidential debates, as well as his claims that he was completely funding his own campaign. She criticized his debating skills and insulted his intelligence. Trump, as always, fired back on Twitter.

Trump’s tweets claimed Jacobus “begged” his campaign to hire her and they turned her down. He also implied she was merely disgruntled from having been rejected and that was why she was making the negative comments about Trump on TV. Furthermore, Trump also claimed Jacobus had no credibility. Continue reading

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Companies will try anything to get the attention of their audience, and in today’s Digital Age, that can include, according to a recent defamation lawsuit’s allegations, utilizing various user names to post comments on their own blog posts.

The blog post involved in the current lawsuit was posted on Jezebel and pertained to another defamation lawsuit filed by Meanith Huon against Above the Law for how it reported his acquittal from accusations of sexual assault. The comments section of the Jezebel article included an allegation that, despite his acquittal, Huon was still a rapist and should be referred to as such.  Huon denies these allegations and contends they are defamatory.

Huon responded by filing a second defamation lawsuit, this time against Jezebel for the blog post, its headline, as well as some of the statements that were made in the post’s comments section which he claims are false.

Because bloggers only have limited control over the comments that get posted on their websites, and because the point of the comments is to promote free and open discussion, they are protected. The comments themselves are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Communications Decency Act protects online publishers from allegations of defamation when it comes to comments posted on their site by third-party users. Continue reading

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Business relationships are often just as complicated as personal relationships, and the longer the relationship, the messier the breakup can be. In a perfect world, people would be able to accept that things change and allow both their loved ones and their coworkers to move on when the time comes. Unfortunately, the pain and sense of betrayal felt by those left behind often makes them do inadvisable things.

One person who allegedly couldn’t let it go was Garrett Patten, the owner of Patten Industries, a Caterpillar heavy equipment dealer located in DuPage County of Illinois. According to a recent defamation lawsuit filed against both Patten Industries and its owner, Garrett Patten allegedly retaliated by seeking to destroy a former employee’s reputation after he left the company to work for a competitor.

Michael Jaworski started working for Patten Industries in 2001 and worked his way up to sales manager. In 2013 he allegedly notified his superiors that he had received a job offer from a competitor, but had turned it down, even though he was not entirely happy working for Patten Industries. According to Jaworski’s lawsuit Garrett Patten allegedly threatened Jaworski, comparing it to an ugly divorce if Jaworski ever did quit. Continue reading

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When a public figure’s reputation is tarnished, their decision regarding whether to give a press conference about the scandal may or may not be paired with a defamation lawsuit. In the case of Genesis Davila, the 24-year-old beauty pageant contestant chose to go with both the lawsuit and the press conference.

Davila was awarded the coveted title of Miss Florida USA 2017, a position that comes with both a crown and an opportunity to compete in the pageant to become Miss USA.

But Davila was suddenly stripped of her crown following allegations that she used professional hair and makeup stylists who were not affiliated with the pageant, which is strictly prohibited by the rules of the pageant. Her crown and title were given instead to her runner-up, Linette De Los Santos.

Davila has responded by filing a defamation lawsuit that is asking for $15 million in damages, as well as an immediate injunction to return the crown and title to Davila.

Grant Gravitt, the pageant’s executive producer, claims there is plenty of evidence, as well as eye-witness accounts that support their decision to crown a new Miss Florida USA 2017 on the grounds that Davila allegedly used professional stylists to achieve the look that won her the crown. Gravitt added that the pageant has a zero-tolerance policy for contestants who don’t follow the rules. Continue reading

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With all the hate crimes going on these days, it can be hard sometimes to remember that it’s the 2010s and not the 1960s, but strides have been made and there are laws in place to protect everyone’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of their race or ethnicity.

A resident of Mount Prospect, Illinois recently allegedly violated some of these rights granted to the members of an African-American family that moved in to her neighborhood. The members of the family in question (Iris Howe and her grown children, Samuel Mobley and Sidney Powell) filed a civil lawsuit against their neighbor, Terry Calliari, for allegedly making them the targets of racial harassment.

According to the civil complaint, Calliari allegedly made repeated use of racial slurs, tried to prevent Howe and her children from using the pool included in the complex, followed them, and blocked their paths with her car. The lawsuit alleges the harassment began the day they moved in – when Calliari allegedly used a racial epithet to refer to her new neighbors – and continued for the next five years.

In those five years, the civil lawsuit alleges that Calliari’s persistent racial harassment against the family prevented them from enjoying their basic rights to enjoy their own home, personal property, and community in peace. Continue reading

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Most large companies have entire departments devoted to handling their public relations and part of their job description includes coming up with ways to counteract negative media attention. Most of those strategies don’t involve filing a defamation lawsuit against the news organization that published the unflattering statements, but that’s exactly what Hummingbird Defense Systems did after two news organizations reported a breach of the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center, an intelligence center that was set up by local government authorities after the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Hummingbird Defense Systems is a small firm located in Phoenix and run by Steve Greschner. In 2007, a Chinese national was hired by Hummingbird Defense Systems as a computer programmer, which allegedly gave him access to the Arizona driver’s license database and possibly to a list of investigators and intelligence analysts. When the employee allegedly returned to Beijing with two laptops, as well as additional hard drives, the security breach was not immediately reported to the state’s attorney general, despite the fact that it may have affected as many as 5 million Arizona residents.

At the time that Hummingbird Defense Systems hired the Chinese national, Greschner was allegedly dating a Chinese immigrant who had been naturalized as a U.S. citizen and she allegedly urged Greschner to hire the Chinese national. She was never charged as a spy, although she was allegedly a suspect for a while and a federal judge did revoke her citizenship status. Continue reading

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Because stock trading is full of opportunities for traders to take advantage of their positions, the law takes accusations of fraud very seriously, but it works the other way, too. Traders have to work hard to protect their reputations because their livelihood depends on it. As a result, stock traders tend to react quickly if they’re ever accused of insider trading or any other forms of fraud.

According to a recent defamation lawsuit, Allstate allegedly falsely accused four traders of illegally taking advantage of their insider trading knowledge by intentionally timing trades in such a way that would inflate their own bonuses. Daniel Rivera, the managing director of Allstate’s equity division, along with three senior portfolio managers, were the four employees accused and fired as a direct result of those accusations.

In October 2009, Allstate announced the work of its equity division would be outsourced to Goldman Sachs. In December of that same year, it fired Rivera and his three senior portfolio managers (Kensinger, Meacock, and Scheuneman) for allegedly violating Allstate’s code of ethics. Because the four employees were supposedly fired with cause, they were not eligible for severance pay. The timing is certainly suspicious, but if Allstate did this as an to save money and avoid paying four senior employees their severance packages, the plan, if this was the plan, a fact which Allstate surely denies, then the plan backfired. Continue reading