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Libel Lawsuits

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by nepatz11, Feb 19, 2008.

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  1. nepatz11

    nepatz11 Rookie

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    I know Libel is very tough to prove. Can anyone give any insight as to when an dif the Patriots may want to consider filing some libel lawsuits. I think the team has been unfairly slandered based on the remarkable lack of evidence that has come out over the past 6 months, the relative widespread nature of this practice as well as the negligible impact of their supposed transgression in the first place. I really think they need to go on the offensive at this point.
  2. signbabybrady

    signbabybrady Rookie

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    I would highly doubt that they go this route as you said it is real difficult to proove.

    The only reason I could see them doing it is as a PR move. Not in actuall hopes of winning but just to show that they will go on the offensive and that they back up their employees.

    Lets say the Patriots wanted to go after the Herald over Thomase article.
    The problem there is while Thomase was being irresponsible as a journalist he did nothing illegal. He reported what a source told him. He may have been irresponsible in when he published and in checking his facts but all he would really owe is a retraction.

    Unless you could prove that Thomase did this with the intent to harm the Patriots.
  3. nepatz11

    nepatz11 Rookie

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    What about someone who has consistently slandered them like GRegg Eatserbrook with no evidence? are you an attorney?
  4. PatsFaninAZ

    PatsFaninAZ Rookie

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    Where did Easterbrook slander them? (For what it's worth, I think you mean libel.)

    The answer here is a simple no. They should not do this. And if they tried, they would lose. Open the national enquirer some day.

    Short of an admission, say, from Tomasse that he did not have a source and made it up, there is nothing actionable that I've read.

    Just let it go.
  5. upstater1

    upstater1 Rookie

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    They don't have a case for libel.

    On the other hand, I think Matt Walsh has a case for slander.

    He should sue the Patriots and Scott Pioli.

    After all, Walsh's lawyer, after hearing Pioli completely trash his clinet's repuation, claimed that Pioli had made up a "total fabrication."

    Walsh should sue Pioli.
  6. Palm Beach Pats Fan

    Palm Beach Pats Fan Rookie

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    If he has "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" then he should go ahead.

    If it's his word vs. theirs, then he would be flushing legal fees down the crapper.
  7. signbabybrady

    signbabybrady Rookie

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    You are right....Piolis comments were made with the intent of harming Walsh's image too, trying to show him a the scandalous employee they fired....So I assume than that the story is true because Pioli would not open himself and the patriots up to that kind of a suite. They would be much more careful than that.
  8. upstater1

    upstater1 Rookie

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    Nope. It doesn't require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden is on the Patriots to show evidence.

    If I said you sleep with goats (No offense, Tom) the burden would not be on you to prove that you don't.
  9. ctpatsfan77

    ctpatsfan77 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Just for the record, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan set the standard for libel cases involving 'public' figures (the Patriots would meet that definition): the plaintiff must prove that the defendant published information with "knowledge that the information was false," or that the information was published "with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not."

    And, don't forget, that the Herald itself was found guilty of libel in 2005.
  10. PatsFaninAZ

    PatsFaninAZ Rookie

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    The standard of proof in a libel case involving a public figure is "clear and convincing evidence," which is higher than "preponderance of the evidence," and less than "beyond a reasonable doubt."

    The burden is always on the plaintiff -- that is, the one saying he was defamed.

    If what Pioli said was false, Walsh might have a claim, although it would likely be for slander not libel. Walsh is probably not a public figure, so his case would be easier to maintain that would be a case by the Patriots against Walsh (or against a newspaper).
  11. upstater1

    upstater1 Rookie

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    The burden of proof is on the plaintiff in libel cases, but not in slander. NYTimes versus Sullivan in 1964 moved the burden of proof from the defendant to the plaintiff in that case precisely because the plaintiff had to prove the libel was deliberate and malicious.

    In term's of Pioli's trashing of Walsh, this is a case of slander because Pioli's claim was verbal and defamatory.

    Here's an explanation from a law journal: "Whether the charge is libel or slander is important. Most libels are deemed injurious and give immediate ground for suit. However, only certain types of statements are slanderous per se and do not require proof of pecuniary damages; these include imputation of crime, of loathsome disease, or of professional or occupational incapacity."

    In these cases, the burden of proof is shifted to the one allegedly committing the slander. Again, if I say you have done something dastardly, why would it be up to you to prove that you haven't? "He sleeps with prostitutes in the office." Why would the accused have to prove that he doesn't? How could he prove that he doesn't? That's why in case of slander, the burden of proof shifts to the accuser (in this case, Pioli). This is always how it used to be in cases of both slander or libel, but then the NY Times case shifted the burden to the accuser and forced the accused to prove that he had been libeled maliciously.

    Slander is only applicable in certain cases. If I made false claims against you, and these claims were not impugning your health, your professional work, or accused you of a crime, then it's likely you wouldn't have a case against me.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2008
  12. PatsFaninAZ

    PatsFaninAZ Rookie

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    Probably more accurate to say that NYT v. Sullivan converted an affirmative defense (truth) to an essential element of plaintiff's case (falsity) in certain types of cases. While this does change the burden of persuasion with respect to that one element -- truth/falsity -- it does not change the overall burdens of proof in the case, which rest with plaintiff on all essential elements and on defendant for all affirmative defenses (as in any tort case).
  13. Wotan_the_Wanderer

    Wotan_the_Wanderer Rookie

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    Well, first I'm not a lawyer so it'd be helpful if a lawyer with more in depth knowledge on the matter would be good enough to clarify or elaborate upon this, but my take on this is that the Patriots would be protected by the absolute privilege doctrine on the matter given that the issue has entered the public arena when a the law suit was filed against the Patriots where the "interest of society" supersedes the rights of an individual. To this extent, damaging statements may be made against individual and the rights of individual are subordinate to what are deemed to be in the best interests of the community or our right to seek the truth.

    Now, I'm one the fans who had wished BB and/or the team came out publicly with a response much earlier, but upon consideration, I think the timing of BB's and Pioli's damaging statements levied against Walsh were carefully considered.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2008
  14. upstater1

    upstater1 Rookie

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    If Walsh could prove he suffered pecuniary damages from Pioli's statement, then I believe that would be the ultimate barometer as to whether he had a case. For instance, if he was fired or prevented from being promoted, that would give him enough to sue alone.
  15. nepatz11

    nepatz11 Rookie

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    So can someone who is an attorney offer an opinion. Dont be shy.
  16. Wotan_the_Wanderer

    Wotan_the_Wanderer Rookie

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    He would have to prove the comments were false and/or their intent is malice. Otherwise:

    "Everyone has a right to commnet of matters of public interest and concerns, provided the do so fairly and with an honest purpose. Such comments or criticism are not libelous, however severe in their terms, unless they are writen maliciously....and such criticism fairly and honestly made is not libelous, however strong the terms of censure may be." (Hoeppner v Dunkirk Pr. Co., NY, 1995)
  17. upstater1

    upstater1 Rookie

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    You're looking at libel laws. Slander is different.

    Libel pertains to the written, usually in the case of media accusations. Slander pertains to individual claims. You don't have to prove malice for slander, only for libel. Why? Because the media organ publishing the alleged libel may or may not be aware that the published commentary is false. In the case of slander which pertains more to oral comments, the intermediary is removed from the equation.
  18. PatsFaninAZ

    PatsFaninAZ Rookie

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    Are you sure about this? Typically any public-figure or matter-of-public-concern defamation (whether fixed in a tangible medium (libel) or spoken (slander)) requires a showing of malice.

    The chief differences between libel and slander have to do with damages. Damages are typically presumed for libel even if the material is not defamatory per se, while this is not true for slander. Also, there are broader privileges to commit slander but not libel. Most important is that causation is much harder to prove in slander cases.

    But the underpinning of NYT v. Sullivan should not turn on whether the defamation was published or spoken.

    Finally, for most purposes that the law cares about, there is not much of a material difference at all between libel and a distinct species of slander that is at issue in this case -- speaking to a reporter with the intent (or at least reckless to the understanding that) the matter will be fixed in a medium and published.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2008
  19. upstater1

    upstater1 Rookie

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    The reason that the NYTimes changed things is that a media organ was involved. The distinction I made was between something written or disseminated by a media organ with certain constitutional protections not given to an individual such as Pioli. He is held to different standards as an individual.

    And I do agree with you that damages are more difficult to prove in a case of slander (as I wrote in the post above) but the actual case against the slanderer is easier. Both elements have to be there of course, and it's clear that the slander has to pertain to your professional reputation (i.e. you can call someone anything you like as long as you don't make claims against their career performance or accuse them of having committed a crime). Then it ventures into slander. Then the burden of proof shifts to the accuser, with the final element being that you, the accused, have to PROVE pecuniary damage.
  20. oldskool138

    oldskool138 Rookie

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    I read the title of the thread too quickly and thought it said "Lobel Lawsuits"... :D
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