In what seems to be a trend among celebrities, Roger Clemens has joined the ranks of celebrities filing defamation lawsuits. In a Texas complaint, Clemens is suing former trainer Brian McNamee for 15 allegedly untrue statements about use of steroids and human growth hormones. On the same day his interview about alleged steroid use was broadcast on “60 Minutes,” Roger Clemens beat Brian McNamee to court, filing a defamation suit against the former trainer who claimed to have injected him with performance-enhancing drugs.
The lawsuit alleges that the defamation by McNamee constitutes defamation per se, one of the common law categories that relieves the plaintiffs of having to show special damages. Such categories include 1) disparaging a person’s professional character or standing; (2) alleging a person is unchaste; (3) alleging that a person has committed a criminal act or act of moral turpitude; (4) alleging a person has a sexual or loathsome disease; and (5) attacking a person’s business or professional reputation. The first, second, and third categories are possibilities for Clemens.Of course, the greatest challenge will be the defense of truth.
Supporters of Clemens have noted that McNamee did not originally make the claim and indeed denied the allegations that claim that his allegations only were made after he was “threatened with criminal prosecution if he didn’t implicate Clemens.” For a copy of the complaint, click here
One of the values of such lawsuit can be public vindication. A lawsuit is often seen as a way to showing that a celebrity denial is more than a spin. This appears to be the case with a lawsuit against the National Enquirer over its story of a “love-child” of Sen. Ted Kennedy, click here
Some recent lawsuits, like Michael Savage’s lawsuit, appear entirely for public consumption and frivolous. Click hereThe danger of such lawsuits is that they expose your client to discovery, which can be quite broad in defamation where truth is the central question. This is the case with Tom Cruise’s reportedly planned lawsuit. A book makes such allegations as his child being produced with the sperm of Scientology founder Hubbard and Cruise’s control by a cult. However, the notoriously secretive and litigation-sensitive church may find discovery a difficult and perilous process. For that story, click here
Other lawsuits by celebrities appear designed to grind opponents financially. Recent cases on behalf of a well-known rabbi, , and Luciano Pavarotti’s widow, here, seem to fit this model. Even friends of Lindsay Lohan have gone to court, click here
For Clemens, he may not have much to lose in discovery. This type of allegation is fairly confined in terms of relevant discovery. It could, however, come down to a question of credibility and sworn testimony. Most players refused to cooperation with the Mitchell investigation. This case could require testimony under oath as well as extensive depositions. Clemens is a public figure and will face the New York Times v. Sullivan standard — requiring proof of actual malice by showing either knowledge of falsity or a reckless disregard of the truth.If this is a publicity stunt, the complaint would be withdrawn shortly before discovery. If it is not, this case and the other cases could find their way into precedent over defaming public figures.
For the full story on Clemens, click here