Judge Dumps Stupid Libel Suit Featuring A Man Suing A Third Party For Things A Journalist Said

from the no-band-aids-for-bruised-feelings dept

It only took a month for a court to dump a bogus defamation suit brought by someone who sued one person for things someone else said. Jim Myers wrote an article for The Tennessean discussing changes made to a culinary arts program. The former director of the program -- Thomas Loftis -- didn't like characterizations made in the article. For reasons known only to him and his lawyers, Loftis sued the new director of the culinary arts program, rather than the columnist or the paper that published his article.

The lawsuit is now dead, thanks to a swift, verbal ruling by the presiding judge. Following a couple of complaints and motions to dismiss, attorney Daniel Horowitz has secured a win for his client.

In his verbal ruling from the bench dismissing the lawsuit against Mr. Rayburn, Judge Jones noted that under Tennessee law, an allegedly defamatory statement must “be read as a person of ordinary intelligence would understand it in light of the surrounding circumstances.” Judge Jones also observed that whether a statement is capable of being understood as defamatory “is a question of law to be determined by the court.” Finding that Mr. Loftis’s Complaint could not satisfy these basic standards even at the motion to dismiss stage, Judge Jones dismissed Mr. Loftis’s lawsuit with prejudice and assessed him the costs of the litigation.

The only thing going for Loftis is the swift dismissal, which means he won't be out much in terms of legal fees. Whatever Loftis did end up paying for his own counsel can hardly be considered money well-spent. His lawsuit seemed to be motivated out of professional jealousy, rather than any sincere belief his reputation had been harmed. But that sort of personal issue shouldn't be allowed to make its way into court:

The legal system should not be used to litigate hurt feelings or to deter people from speaking to the media.

Despite multiple rewrites, Loftis' lawsuit never managed to tie the defendant -- the new arts director the Tennessean columnist considered to be a huge improvement over his predecessor -- to any actual defamation, much less any disparaging words that actually came out of the new culinary director's mouth.

The reply motion [PDF] by Rayburn is worth a read, simply because it hammers home just how objectively terrible this lawsuit is. Fortunately, the plaintiff wasn't given much of a chance to annoy the target of his bogus suit and certainly won't be leaving him in a worse financial situation.

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Filed Under: free speech, jim myers, journalism, lawsuits, randy rayburn, slapp, thomas loftis

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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 21 Jul 2017 @ 8:09am

    I wonder if there is enough evidence of bad faith or abuse of the system and both the lawyer and the client can be sanctioned/fined somehow. That should be interesting to serve as a deterrent. In my opinion the Government should bear the burden of the costs at the very least for the defense with limitations of course (ideally for both) and they should be awarded to the losing part of the process. That should prevent a lot of bad litigation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jul 2017 @ 9:50am

    out_of_the_blue just hates stupid

    THIS. worth 3 hr wait for 1 glance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 21 Jul 2017 @ 2:48pm

    From the linked filing

    "The plaintiff himself actually pleads that several of the statements that form the basis of his complaint are true"

    "whether a person is incompetent represents a purely sibjective opinion that can never be the basis for defamation"

    "the plaintiff's erroneous "factual" assertion that he does not qualify as a public figure"

    "However, in defamation cases, plaintiff's interpretation of the facts enjoys no deference at all."

    Hmm, seeing as the court in this case accepted these arguments, and Ayyadurai's vexatious lawsuit against Techdirt contains all of these same fatal flaws let's hope that Massachusetts judge comes to the same competent conclusion that this one did.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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