People who already have wealth and power are increasingly using defamation lawsuits as a weapon against their enemies. Even when the lawsuits are found to be baseless, they’re still having the desired effect of silencing the plaintiff’s opponents.

Newspapers have increasingly been targeted by defamation lawsuits. While large, national newspapers, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post have the resources to fight these lawsuits, small, local newspapers do not.

The Wausau Pilot & Review is a local newspaper reporting on local events in Wausau County, located in north-central Wisconsin. When they got a tip from a reader that someone at the August 12th meeting of the Wausau County board used an anti-gay slur, they acted on the tip and reported on it in their newspaper. Continue reading ›

Destroying someone’s reputation is easier than ever. Rather than spreading rumors amongst their friends one at a time, all you need now is access to the internet and you can spread lies and unflattering photos of them all over the world. But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s legal.

One method of online harassment affecting women more than men is former partners posting nude photos and videos of them online when the relationship ends. In one recent case, a woman’s ex-boyfriend created fake email and social media accounts so he could share nude photos and videos of her online.

The woman, who is only listed as D.L. in the lawsuit to protect her privacy, started dating Marques Jamal Jackson in 2016 and was living with him in Chicago in early 2020 when their relationship began to fall apart. According to the lawsuit, the process of ending the relationship was long and drawn out. Continue reading ›

You would think someone who has been a public figure for as long as Donald J. Trump has would know what a high bar public figures have to meet when it comes to suing for defamation, especially given the number of defamation lawsuits in which Mr. Trump has already been involved.

Nevertheless, Mr. Trump filed yet another defamation lawsuit against the Cable News Network (CNN) for allegedly comparing him to Adolf Hitler and Nazism.

The statements at the center of the lawsuit include repeated references to Mr. Trump’s “big lie,” meaning his insistence that he won the 2020 presidential election, and Biden and the Democrats cheated to steal the presidency from him. The lawsuit also claims that CNN’s alleged defamation has increased lately amid the network’s fears of Mr. Trump running for reelection in 2024.

Mr. Trump’s defamation lawsuit asked for $475 million in damages, but the case was dismissed by Judge Raag Singhal, who was nominated to the District Court by then-President Trump in 2019.

Singhal pointed out that CNN’s statements about Mr. Trump did not meet the defamation threshold of being false. Singhal denied the conclusion made by the lawsuit that CNN’s statements suggested Mr. Trump supported the persecution or genocide of Jews. Continue reading ›

Any contract you’ve signed with a company (including the “Terms of Service” most of us don’t read before clicking the box next to “I agree that I have read and agree to the terms”) has included a clause about where you and that company can resolve legal disputes. In some cases, it’s in a certain state, or even a specific county, but increasingly courts have been forcing their customers, vendors, and employees into arbitration.

Arbitration was originally designed as a way for companies to settle legal disputes with other companies outside of court so they wouldn’t flood the court system. But several years ago companies started including arbitration clauses in their contracts with individuals, often without those individuals realizing they were signing away their rights to a fair trial.

As the issue of companies getting out of control when it comes to their arbitration clauses has become more widespread, judges and legislators have started taking measures to curb companies’ use of arbitration agreements with individuals – especially when it comes to their customers and employees.

So far, Pennsylvania is the only state to pass a law requiring all corporations doing business in the state to consent to being sued in Pennsylvania court by anyone, for conduct the corporation engaged in anywhere. Continue reading ›

The debate over what separates inspiration from copying is as old as art itself. Creative professionals of all kinds are constantly taking themes and elements from others’ works to use them in their own creations. But when do they cross the line from borrowing themes and elements to outright copying someone else’s work? That line isn’t always easy to define, and the recent Supreme Court ruling against the estate of Andy Warhol has just made the line blurrier.

If you’re unfamiliar with the case, Lynn Goldsmith sued the Andy Warhol Foundation for allegedly infringing on her copyright.

Goldsmith is a photographer who took the photo of Prince that Warhol used to create his Prince series. Goldsmith licensed the photograph to Vanity Fair, which hired Warhol to create a silkscreen based on the photo. The licensing agreement they had with Goldsmith allowed them to use her photo as reference for an illustration. The terms of the agreement stated that the photo would be used only once for an artistic illustration.

Goldsmith assumed the purple silkscreen portrait of Prince used in Vanity Fair’s November 1984 issue was the only illustration created from her photo. Then Vanity Fair’s parent company, Condé Nast, approached the Andy Warhol Foundation about reusing the purple silkscreen of Prince in 2016 for an article about the musician after his death. That was when the magazine company realized there was a whole series of Prince paintings. They offered to buy the Orange Prince instead, which is when Goldsmith realized there were other artworks based off her photo, which she alleges violated her agreement with Vanity Fair. Continue reading ›

Among the many legal battles involving Donald Trump these days is a recent lawsuit in which Trump sued his niece, Mary Trump, along with the New York Times for reporting on his tax records in 2018. The series of articles accused Trump of engaging in tax schemes and cast doubt on his claims of being a self-made millionaire. The reporting earned a Pulitzer Prize, but Trump alleges it was all part of a plot to uncover confidential records. The lawsuit was filed in 2021 and is seeking $100 million in damages, but the judge dismissed the legal action against the newspaper.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right to free and open discussion, especially when it comes to public figures. The founding fathers wanted to encourage the public release of information around public figures with the idea that it would give the public access to more information about the people they were electing to represent them.

It’s a critical ingredient to our democratic system, which is why it’s more difficult for a public person to successfully sue for defamation, especially when they’re going up against a news organization. That’s why New York Supreme Court Justice Robert Reed dismissed Trump’s claims against the newspaper, saying they had no basis in constitutional law. He added that the reporting in question was nothing more than routine newsgathering, and as such, is protected by the First Amendment. Continue reading ›

Donald J. Trump is already facing dozens of criminal charges for allegedly falsifying business records and misusing campaign funds in an alleged attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election. Yet Trump is back in court suing his former attorney, Michael Cohen, for $500 million.

The lawsuit accuses Cohen of talking publicly about things that should have remained confidential between him and his former client. The lawsuit also accuses Cohen of telling lies about Mr. Trump in the media and in Cohen’s two books, Disloyal: A Memoir: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump, and Revenge: How Donald Trump Weaponized the U.S. Department of Justice Against His Critics.

The first book was published prior to the 2020 presidential election, whereas the second was released in 2022. Among other things, the books accuse Trump of being a racist and of lying about just about everything. Continue reading ›

We all know attorneys are not allowed to represent both sides in a lawsuit, but what if the law firm currently representing one side used to represent the other side? Wouldn’t that be considered a conflict of interest? It’s especially likely to pose a problem if the issue involved in the lawsuit is the same issue the law firm previously handled for the other side.

If the law firm had recently represented the company they’re currently suing, it’s obvious how that could cause problems. But what if the prior legal work in question was performed more than a decade ago? Would that be long enough to erase the conflict of interest?

All that is in question as Walgreens seeks to disqualify a law firm currently filing a lawsuit against it on behalf of major health insurance providers.

Walgreens claims the law firm, Crowell & Moring, has breached its fiduciary duty to the giant retail company by representing major health insurers suing Walgreens over drug prices. The law firm sought to have the claims dismissed, but U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall said Walgreens had provided enough evidence to keep their claim alive, at least for now. Continue reading ›

A Call from a Friend Led Him to a Multi-Million-Dollar Case

A lot of people tend to assume lawyers have enormous salaries, but a lot of lawyers, especially those working at small firms, make only a modest income. So, the millions of dollars that might be on their way to attorney David Wasinger as part of a settlement agreement he negotiated and a case he won is anything but business as usual for him.

Wasinger is the only partner of a small law firm in St. Louis, Missouri. He works with just four other lawyers and his firm handles mostly business disputes. He had never represented a whistleblower until he got a call from an old business acquaintance in early 2012.

A whistleblower is someone who works in an organization that is allegedly committing fraud against the government, and they decide to alert the authorities. Because whistleblowers are risking their jobs and their reputation, they usually receive 15-25% of the settlement or court-ordered award that comes out of the lawsuit as an incentive to alert the government to fraud.

A share of that money goes to the lawyers representing the whistleblower, which is why whistleblower cases are highly competitive. Wasinger’s position is unique in that he didn’t compete to represent this client – the client reached out to him because they already had a relationship. When you’re blowing the whistle on fraud worth billions of dollars, you need someone you can trust.

The first lawsuit Wasinger brought to court accused Bank of America’s Countrywide unit of engaging in widespread fraud. In January of 2023, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan announced it would be asking for as much as $2.1 billion in penalties from the bank after a jury found it to be guilty of fraud. Continue reading ›

When someone files a lawsuit alleging physical or emotional abuse, they can often find the legal process to be retraumatizing. They are forced to relive the incident(s) that hurt them over and over again, first when hiring a lawyer, then in deposition, then again in court. It’s not an easy process, and it’s a big reason that many victims never pursue legal action. It’s also a big reason many of those who do file never pursue it all the way to court.

Moss Gropen is one such victim who alleges he was abused and neglected by Palomar Medical Center. According to the lawsuit, Gropen went to the hospital for a scheduled procedure to remove fluid from the area surrounding his lungs. Instead, he claims he was admitted to the emergency room where doctors inserted a chest tube, then put him in a windowless room and left him alone with substandard nutrition. Gropen alleges he suffered from uncontrollable sobbing and anxiety, which resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), from which he says he continues to suffer.

Gropen is suing the hospital along with several of its doctors and employees for causing his PTSD. When he appeared at the offices of the hospital’s lawyers in July to provide his deposition, his wife came with him to provide emotional support during what was bound to be a challenging time for Gropen.

The lawyers immediately objected to the presence of Gropen’s wife at the deposition because she is a witness in the lawsuit. Having Gropen’s wife present while he provides his deposition could lead to the two of them colluding on their testimony. Gropen refused to provide testimony without his wife present and ended up leaving the office without providing testimony. Continue reading ›

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