Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Defenses Against Defamation

So I've noticed a lot of folks feel that they've been "defamed" so I thought we'd look into the merits of some of these cases. What better way to look at merit than to take the opposite view - how would someone defend against defamation?

Simply put, according to Wikipedia, there are a few standard defenses:
  • Truth is an absolute defense in the United States as well as in the common law jurisdictions of Canada. In some other countries it is also necessary to show a benefit to the public good in having the information brought to light.
  • Statements made in a good faith and reasonable belief that they were true are generally treated the same as true statements; however, the court may inquire into the reasonableness of the belief. The degree of care expected will vary with the nature of the defendant: an ordinary person might safely rely on a single newspaper report, while the newspaper would be expected to carefully check multiple sources.
  • Privilege is a defense when witness testimony, attorneys' arguments, and judges' decisions, rulings, and statements made in court, or statements by legislators on the floor of the legislature, or statements made by a person to their spouse, are the cause for the claim. These statements are said to be privileged and cannot be cause for a defamation claim.
  • Opinion is a defense recognized in nearly every jurisdiction. If the allegedly defamatory assertion is an expression of opinion rather than a statement of fact, defamation claims usually cannot be brought because opinions are inherently not falsifiable. However, some jurisdictions decline to recognize any legal distinction between fact and opinion. The United States Supreme Court, in particular, has ruled that the First Amendment does not require recognition of an opinion privilege.
  • Fair comment on a matter of public interest, statements made with an honest belief in their truth on a matter of public interest (official acts) are defenses to a defamation claim, even if such arguments are logically unsound; if a reasonable person could honestly entertain such an opinion, the statement is protected.
  • Consent is an uncommon defense and makes the claim that the claimant consented to the dissemination of the statement.
  • Innocent dissemination is a defense available when a defendant had no actual knowledge of the defamatory statement or no reason to believe the statement was defamatory. The defense can be defeated if the lack of knowledge was due to negligence. Thus, a delivery service cannot be held liable for delivering a sealed defamatory letter.
  • Claimant is incapable of further defamation–e.g., the claimant's position in the community is so poor that defamation could not do further damage to the plaintiff. Such a claimant could be said to be "libel-proof," since in most jurisdictions, actual damage is an essential element for a libel claim.

In addition to the above, the defendant may claim that the allegedly defamatory statement is not actually capable of being defamatory—an insulting statement that does not actually harm someone's reputation is prima facie not libelous.

Special rules apply in the case of statements made in the press concerning public figures. A series of court rulings led by New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964) established that for a public official (or other legitimate public figure) to win a libel case, the statement must have been published knowing it to be false or with reckless disregard to its truth, (also known as actual malice).

Under United States law, libel generally requires five key elements. The plaintiff must prove that the information was published, the defendant was directly or indirectly identified, the remarks were defamatory towards the plaintiff's reputation, the published information is false, and that the defendant is at fault.

The Associated Press estimates that 95% of libel cases involving news stories do not arise from high-profile news stories, but "run of the mill" local stories like news coverage of local criminal investigations or trials, or business profiles. Media liability insurance is available to newspapers to cover potential damage awards from libel lawsuits.

------ copyright notice for the wikipedia content ------

You may copy and distribute the Document in any medium, either commercially or noncommercially, provided that this License, the copyright notices, and the license notice saying this License applies to the Document are reproduced in all copies, and that you add no other conditions whatsoever to those of this License. You may not use technical measures to obstruct or control the reading or further copying of the copies you make or distribute. However, you may accept compensation in exchange for copies. If you distribute a large enough number of copies you must also follow the conditions in section 3.

You may also lend copies, under the same conditions stated above, and you may publicly display copies.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Picture Says A Thousand Words

As many of our posters may have recently noticed, you can now add a picture to your already existing post. So go ahead and Post your lawsuit. Add your image when create your post (preferable), or go back and add one later (hey, better late than never).

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Welcome to HelpMeSue.com

We’re here to help you find a lawyer. Anonymously, and for FREE!

Finding legal representation is a long and expensive process. You have to find lawyers, schedule time with them and sometimes pay them to even listen to your story,… just to find out that they won’t take your case. What ends up happening is that only the wealthy and famous have time and money to get through this.

HelpMeSue.com is here to level the field and give you the same ability to find legal representation that the rich and famous have. But for free! With HelpMeSue.com, you don’t have to let the difficulties of finding a lawyer discourage you from looking for one. Just come to HelpMeSue.com, post up your case, and let lawyers contact you! We hide your email address and never pass it on to anyone. It’s entirely up to you, when you want anyone to have your email address.

We’ve all wondered if we could have fought back, after being taken advantage of. Now, you don’t have to wonder anymore! Find out, anonymously and for free! Let www.HelpMeSue.com help you.

It works like this:

1. Go to www.HelpMeSue.com, post your case, there's no need to register
2. HelpMeSue.com creates an anonymous email address for you.
3. Lawyers find your case and send an email to your anonymous email address.
4. You choose to reply or not.

Remember: by posting your case, you are asking lawyers to contact you. Since you’ve posted about your case, they’ll already be familiar with it. Once you post your case, the HelpMeSue.com community will be able to see it, and have the ability to comment on it. Often they will help you narrow down what additional information lawyers might need. At any time you can come back to HelpMeSue.com to delete or amend you case. Be sure to post in accordance with the HelpMeSue.com Post Policy and User Agreement.

HelpMeSue.com is not a lawyer, and does not give any legal advice. We help you find someone offering their advice. It’s up to you to accept any advice you receive, and HelpMeSue.com is not associated with it and can not be held responsible for it. What we do, is make it easier for you to find a lawyer.

We built the site because we know how hard it is to get a lawyer on your side. We can’t give you legal advice, but we aim to help you make a connection to someone who can!

Your HelpMeSue.com Team

Monday, December 31, 2007

New Class Action Feature

A new simple to use feature has just rolled out for HelpMeSue.com. When creating your post, you now have the option to set your Post as a Class Action suit. This will allow for others to join your class action suit. When a lawyer contacts the poster, they will still only communicate with the original poster. If they lawyer wants to contact all members of the class action suit, they will need to contact HelpMeSue.com in order to obtain the list.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Strange, but successful lawsuits - Week 1

First, I want to thank you for coming to our site! I hope you find the help that you are seeking, or are able to provide legal assistance for some of our viewers.

I thought I'd gather up some of the "strange but true" lawsuits and put together a weekly tracker. I hope you enjoy the first week -

Quoted from various websites and assumed, but not guaranteed, to be true:

Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas: Awarded $80,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict...considering the running toddler was Mrs. Robertson's son.

Carl Truman (19) of Los Angeles, California: Awarded $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with his Honda Accord. Mr. Truman apparently didn't notice his neighbor was at the wheel of the car while he was attempting to steal his hubcaps.

Terrence Dickson or Bristol, Pennsylvania: While in the process of leaving a home he had just burglarized through the garage, Mr. Dickson became locked in when the automatic garage door opener failed to open, and the door leading into the house locked upon closing. He was forced to wait in the garage for a period of 8 days, surviving on nothing but a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food. Upon release, he sued the homeowner's insurance company, claiming undue mental anguish for his "captivity". The jury awarded Mr. Dickson $500,000 for his trouble.

Jerry Williams of Little Rock, Arkansas: Awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt buy his next-door neighbor's beagle...even though the beagle was on a chain, in his owner's front yard. Mr. Williams did not, however, receive the full amount of his asking damages as the jury decided the beagle may have been provoked, since Mr. Williams had climbed over the fence and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.

Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Awarded $113,500 to be paid by the restaurant where she slipped on a spilled soft drink and fractured her coccyx (tailbone). The reason for the spilled soft drink was due to Ms. Carson throwing it at her boyfriend prior to the fall, during an argument.

Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware: While attempting to sneak into a local nightclub through the women's restroom to avoid the club's $3.50 cover charge, Ms. Walton fell onto the bathroom floor, and knocked out her two front teeth. A jury decided to award her $12,000 plus dental expenses to be paid by the nightclub she was sneaking into.

Merv Grazinski or Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Mrs. Grazinski had recently purchased a new 32-foot Winnebago motor home, and during the trip home from an OU football game, she decided that she was hungry. After arriving onto the highway, she expertly set the vehicle's cruise control to 70 MPH, calmly left the driver's seat, and headed to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed, and overturned. Mrs. Grazinski sued the Winnebago corporation for not stating in the owner's manual that cruise control was not the same as "automatic pilot" and that she was not actually able to leave the driver's seat while using it. The jury awarded her $1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. The Winnebago corporation has updated their driver's operation manuals, as a result of this lawsuit.

Remember to check out http://www.HelpMeSue.com regularly for updates!