Articles Posted in Defamation, Libel and Slander

CNN has agreed to settle a multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit with Covington Catholic student Nicholas Sandmann earlier this month. A CNN spokesperson has confirmed that a settlement was reached but the news outlet has declined to offer further details.

In March of last year, Sandmann filed a defamation lawsuit against CNN seeking more than $275 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The lawsuit alleged that the cable news networked engaged in a “vicious attack” against Sandmann in its coverage of him following his encounter with 64-year-old Native American Nathan Phillips in January of that year.

According to the complaint, which was filed in federal court in Kentucky, “CNN falsely asserted” that Sandmann and his classmates were in a “racis[t]” “mob mentality” and “looked like they were going to lynch” a nearby group of Black Hebrew Israelites “because they didn’t like the color of their skin” or “their religious views.” The suit goes on to allege that CNN further reported that Sandmann and his classmates “surrounded” Phillips and “harassed and taunted” him, creating “a really dangerous situation” during which Sandmann “blocked [Phillips’] escape” and caused Phillips to “fear for his safety and the safety of those with him.” Continue reading ›

Democratic presidential candidate and congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard filed a defamation lawsuit last week against Hillary Clinton over statements the former Secretary of State made during an interview characterizing Gabbard as a Russian asset. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeks more than $50 million in damages as well as an award of punitive damages for alleged damage to Gabbard’s professional and personal reputation.

Clinton’s allegedly defamatory comments are merely part of an ongoing feud between the politicians that dates back at least until 2016. According to the lawsuit, Clinton has sought revenge on Gabbard ever since Gabbard endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Clinton, who the lawsuit refers to as a “cutthroat politician,” made the allegedly slanderous statements as “retribution” for Gabbard’s “perceived slight,” the lawsuit claims. Continue reading ›

When an employee of a medical parts manufacturer was caught up in a foreign corrupt practices investigation of his employer and subsequently fired, the employee could not sue the employer for defamation. The employer included the former employee on a list of prohibited parties that the employer claimed posed an unacceptable compliance risk for the company. The appellate panel found that these statements were not defamatory because they were expressions of opinion or were the truth.

Biomet is a global corporation that manufactures and sells medical devices. Biomet is headquartered in Warsaw, Indiana. Biomet subsidiary Biomet Argentina, SA employed Alejandro Yeatts from 2005 to 2015. Yeatts worked in the position of Business Manager for South America from 2008 through 2014. Yeatts responsibilities included implementing Biomet’s compliance policies.

Biomet had a distribution agreement with Prosintese, a Brazillian company run by Sergio Galindo. In 2008, Biomet terminated that agreement after it learned that Galindo had bribed healthcare providers to promote and market Biomet products. This conduct is prohibited by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Yeatts was informed after the fact that Galindo had paid bribes. Yeatts had also attended FCPA training sessions explaining prohibited conduct. Continue reading ›

Sex traffickers are as capable as the rest of us of using technology for their businesses, including social media. But what if we could prevent them from using social media for their sex trafficking?

Annie McAdams is a personal injury attorney based out of Houston, TX who has sued insurance companies, drunk drivers, restaurants, and real estate developers. Now she’s taking on Facebook and other major tech companies.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 says internet companies are not responsible for what their users post, but according to McAdams, separate laws should exist that require Facebook and other tech companies to warn users about pimps using Facebook and Instagram to lure minors into sex work and that they should do more to foil the pimps in those attempts.

The logic McAdams uses is that if someone sells a lawnmower to someone else, and in the course of using that lawnmower a blade flies off and injures someone, the law requires the seller to take responsibility for the accident, to warn users, and to take action to prevent it from happening again. But those same, basic protections don’t apply to sex trafficking over the internet. Continue reading ›

Politics is an ugly business and campaigns are often littered with smears and negative advertisements. For Joseph J. Tirio, the race for McHenry County Clerk got particularly ugly and resulted in the publishing of three allegedly defamatory flyers in opposition to Tirio’s candidacy leading up to the 2018 primary election.

The first flyer depicted Tirio as a burglar wearing a mask and gloves and alleged that “Crooked Joe Tirio” had a “secret taxpayer-funded slush fund” and that he was “just another crooked politician.” The back of the flyer stated, in part, that Tirio allegedly used the slush fund to hire four employees and pay for a personal vacation to New Mexico.

In the second flyer, Tirio was again depicted wearing a burglar mask and gloves. It went on to allege that “crooked Joe Tirio” and “his Chicago style politics” were “destroying the GOP with Chicago style sleaze.” The flyer contained a number of allegedly defamatory statements including “Slush fund,” “Taxpayer-funded vacations,” and “Moneyman for the racist campaigns of Brettman & Schuster,” and that “Tirio is the moneyman behind the campaign of RACISM & HATE.” Continue reading ›

A federal judge reversed himself and reinstated part of a defamation lawsuit filed by Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann against The Washington Post. The lawsuit alleged that the newspaper libeled the teen in its coverage of his encounter with a Native American activist at the Lincoln Memorial earlier this year.

The federal judge assigned to the case, Judge William O. Bertelsman, originally dismissed the suit back in July on First Amendment grounds. After a request for reconsideration, the Judge reversed himself saying that the libel suit could go forward while narrowing the scope of the suit from 33 published statements to three.

As we previously wrote, the suit alleged that the paper “targeted and bullied” the 16-year-old in articles it published following in the aftermath of an incident involving Nathan Phillips, a Native American advocate, and the teen who was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. The incident occurred while the teen was on a school trip with classmates from Covington Catholic High School to the National Mall where they encountered Phillips on the memorial’s steps. The original complaint sought $250 million in damages.

The specifics of what occurred between Phillips and the students was disputed and media coverage of the encounter, including by The Washington Post, sparked heated debate around the country. In his July opinion, Judge Bertelsman accepted Sandmann’s version of the encounter as is required when ruling on a motion to dismiss. Despite accepting the plaintiff’s description of the encounter, the judge ruled that none of the 33 statements identified in the complaint were defamatory and most constituted constitutionally protected opinion.

Based on a proposed First Amended Complaint filed in connection with the motion to reconsider, Judge Bertelsman reconsidered his previous ruling and granted the plaintiff the ability to seek discovery from The Washington Post on three of 33 allegedly libelous statements reported by the paper. In a five-page written order, the judge identified the three allegedly defamatory statements identified in the amended complaint being reinstated, specifically statements that Sandmann had “blocked” Phillips as he ascended the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial and “would not allow him to retreat.” “Suffice to say that the Court has given this matter careful review and concludes that ‘justice requires’ that discovery be had regarding these statements and their context,” the judge explained.

The order also found that the proposed amended complaint offered by Sandmann beefed up and clarified its allegations concerning actual malice on the part of The Washington Post. “The Court also notes that the proposed First Amended Complaint makes specific allegations concerning the state of mind of Phillips, the principal source of these statements,” the court wrote. “It alleges in greater detail than the original complaint that Phillips deliberately lied concerning the events at issue, and that he had an unsavory reputation which, but for the defendant’s negligence or malice, would have alerted defendant to this fact.” Continue reading ›

Most of us have become accustomed to the idea of saying just about anything on social media without having to face any real consequences for our words, but Elon Musk is about to go to trial over a couple of words he posted on Twitter in the summer of 2018.

You might remember the case of the boys’ soccer team and their coach trapped in a cave in Thailand for several days before rescuers were finally able to get them all out. The incident gained international attention and Elon Musk sent a team of engineers from the three companies he leads. The engineers came up with three miniature submarines to help with the rescue, but the head of the rescue operation dismissed the submarines as impractical. Continue reading ›

Netflix released its movie about the Panama Papers on October 18th, and while fictional versions of Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca narrate the story of the movie to “tell their side”, the real-life Mossack and Fonseca are suing Netflix for defamation.

Mossack and Fonseca are the two lawyers who founded and ran the law firm Mossack Fonseca out of Panama. Their law firm controlled the finances for companies for people all over the world. These are known as offshore accounts, and while they are legal, the Panama Papers revealed that some of the companies allegedly held by the law firm existed only on paper and did not produce or sell anything. These are known as shell corporations and they were allegedly used by Mossack Fonseca’s clients to hide illegal dealings, such as fraud and evading international sanctions, as well as evading taxes.

In Netflix’s movie, “The Laundromat”, both Mossack and Fonseca insist their law firm holds so many companies they don’t even know what each of them does, thereby insisting they are innocent of any crimes their clients may have committed. Continue reading ›

Jared Pozner, who lost his 6-year-old son, Noah, in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, has had to deal with attacks from everyone from the hosts of radio shows to the authors of books claiming he’s lying about his son’s death. In addition to the HONR Networking, an advocacy group that puts pressure on social media sites like Facebook to remove false or misleading information about the Sandy Hook shooting, Pozner and several other families of the victims have filed defamation lawsuits against their accusers all over the country.

The largest defamation lawsuit is against Alex Jones, the host, and owner of Infowars, a radio show and website that have allegedly been spreading false information about Sandy Hook and other mass shootings and accused the families of lying about their children’s deaths. That lawsuit is still working its way through the court system, but in the meantime, Pozner recently won a smaller lawsuit against James Fetzer. Continue reading ›

Online review sites such as Yelp have been the bane of companies’ existence ever since they first started popping up on the internet. While businesses work hard to provide each of their customers with the best experience possible, one can never please everyone, and the displeased will inevitably turn to the internet to vent their frustration for all potential clients to see. As problematic as that is for any business (especially small businesses), is suing customers who leave a bad review really the answer?

Lisa Agostino, of Macomb County, Michigan, is being sued by North Wind Heating and Cooling for leaving a bad review of the company on Yelp.

In her review, Agostino said she was overcharged for the air conditioner capacitator the company installed for her. Continue reading ›

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