This New York Times piece on a love affair gone bad − and the guy was trashed on blogs − brings some perhaps alarming reality to anyone who thinks that suing for defamation on a blog is a slam-dunk:
For all the inquiries they have facilitated into humanity’s highest intellectual realms, blogs have also proven themselves good incubators for petty squabbling, savage back-stabbing and ad hominem warfare of all varieties. The same, of course, is true of academia. So if, as a recent lawsuit alleges, an editorial associate at Cornell University’s Sage School of Philosophy took to the Internet in 2012 to savage a former lover, it may not be surprising that things got out of control.
The accusations — too scabrous to be reprinted here — were spread around dozens of websites, including anonymous blogs and professional ratings sites. They excoriated every supposed aspect of the man’s identity, from his sexual proclivities to his physical endowment to his professional ethics to his ex-wife and disabled child.
John B. Wender, the architect who was the subject of those accusations, filed a lawsuit for $1.25 million last year against Louise Silberling, a woman he said he had met online and gotten together with three times, citing a “malicious campaign to utterly destroy plaintiff’s personal and professional reputation.”
But you see Mr. Wender’s lawsuit has been dismissed, in large part, because:
“A statement is defamatory if it is false and ‘tends to expose the plaintiff to public contempt, ridicule, aversion or disgrace,’ ” Justice Anil C. Singh of State Supreme Court in Manhattan wrote.
“Opinions cannot be proven untrue,” the judge continued, “and they are constitutionally protected.” The statements against Mr. Wender were withering, the judge agreed, but according to an earlier case, “loose, figurative or hyperbolic statements, even if deprecating the plaintiff, are not actionable.”
And if Mr. Wender loses the entirety of this lawsuit, the defendant will without question come at him for reimbursement of her legal costs. Because that’s what can happen when you lose a lawsuit.