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Thursday, September 02, 2004

Why Commencing A Defamation Action Is Not Aways A Good Idea

While people who are targeted by lies [or alternatively, say, targeted by people they have pissed off who have genuine complaints] may well be angry enough to file a lawsuit, there are some very good reasons why actions for defamation may not be a good idea.

The publicity that results from a defamation lawsuit can create a greater audience for the false statements than they previously enjoyed. For example, if a newspaper or news show picks up the story of the lawsuit, false accusations that were previously known to only a small number of people may suddenly become known to the entire community, nation, or even to the world. As the media is much more apt to cover a lawsuit than to cover its ultimate resolution, the net effect may be that large numbers of people hear the false allegations, but never learn how the litigation was resolved.

Another big issue is that defamation cases tend to be difficult to win, and damage awards tend to be small. As a result, it is unusual for attorneys to be willing to take defamation cases on a contingent fee basis, and the fees expended in litigating even a successful defamation action can exceed the total recovery.

Another significant concern is that, even where the statements made by the defendant are entirely false, it may not be possible for a plaintiff to prove all of the elements of defamation. Most people will respond to news that a plaintiff lost a defamation lawsuit by concluding that the allegations were true.

In other words, the plaintiff in a defamation action may be required to expend a considerable amount of money to bring the action, may experience significant negative publicity which repeats the false accusations, and if unsuccessful in the litigation may cement into the public consciousness the belief that the defamatory accusations were true. While many plaintiffs will be able to successfully prosecute defamation actions, the possible downside should be considered when deciding whether or not such litigation should be attempted.


Of course, another point to add here is that one can't be sued over an expressed opinion. And also, nothing I have posted on this blog regarding Kelli Harman has been a lie, but merely opinion and fact. It may well have been damaging to her, but if you behave like a jerk, and word of your behavior gets out, who is the real cause of the damage, hrmm? Truth hurts, eh?
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