Can The 'Gist' Of A Book Be Defamatory, Even If Nothing Is Proven False?
from the chilling-effects dept
A few weeks back, we wrote about how Texas real estate developer H. Walker Royall “went on a lawsuit bender,” upon finding out a book by author Carla Main that was critical of some of his development projects. He not only sued the author and the publisher, but also someone who reviewed the book, the newspaper that published the review and (most ridiculous of all) an academic who wrote a blurb praising the book that went on the book’s jacket. The suit against the blurb writer was tossed out for lack of jurisdiction, and for whatever reason, the newspaper and the reviewer “settled” the lawsuit (which seems unfortunate). However, the lawsuit against the book author and the publisher has continued. We argued, at the time, that this was a clear example of where better anti-SLAPP laws are needed, but seeing as there are no such laws in Texas, the case will focus on whether or not the book was defamatory.
With the trial now underway, Main’s lawyers are pointing out that the book is “political and social criticism,” and that Royall has not proven she got any facts wrong. Royall’s response is somewhat stunning. His lawyers seem to be indicating that even if there’s nothing factually wrong, the “conclusions” drawn from those facts are defamatory. In other words, there may be nothing wrong with the book, but the analysis of those facts, as a whole, is somehow defamatory. This sounds an awful lot like “well, I don’t like what she said, and it makes me look bad — even if based on fact — and thus, it must be defamatory.”
Once again, this seems like a clear SLAPP situation, where someone didn’t like the speech of someone else, and filed a lawsuit. Claiming that the general “gist” of a book is defamatory without being able to show any actually false statements seems like a real stretch on defamation law.