Dangerous Free Speech Ruling: Blogger Has To Pay In Libel Case… Despite Telling The Truth
from the going-to-be-overturned dept
In a ruling that almost certainly will get overturned, a blogger who was sued for libel, and showed that he had spoken truthfully, was still ordered to pay $60,000, in a highly questionable ruling that routed around basic defamation law by claiming the amount ($35,000 for lost wages and $25,000 for “emotional distress”) was due to “tortious interference” with employment. The case involved a blogger named John Hoff, who wrote a scathing blog post about Jerry Moore who was apparently involved in a high-profile mortgage fraud. That blog post generated attention and complaints to the University of Minnesota, who had recently hired Moore. The University fired Moore the next day. The lawsuit tried a few claims to get around various protections, including claiming that Hoff was liable for comments made by users by creating a “defamation zone.” Thankfully, the court didn’t buy into that (a ruling that never would have survived a Section 230 challenge), but apparently did buy into this crazy tortious interference claim. If telling the truth about someone gets them fired, then the issue should never be about the person who told the truth, but the person who did whatever they did to make the truth about them a fireable offense. There’s an expectation that Hoff will appeal, and many believe this will be overturned on First Amendment grounds. That seems likely, but it’s still a huge process, and in the meantime, this awful ruling stands.