We have been following the defamation lawsuit filed by Thomas M. Cooley Law School against the Kurzon law firm, a New York plaintiffs law firm. Now, Partner Jeff Kurzon has filed a counter lawsuit against Cooley in New York. Kurzon is pursuing a class-action against the Michigan law school for allegedly fudging employment and student loan statistics.
The latest lawsuit focused on public statements by Cooley’s president, Don LeDuc, who defended his school. He stated “We believe these particular defendants have crossed the line both legally and ethically, calling us criminals who deceive our students and steal their tuition money, and ascribing to us fraudulent student loan activities and default rates that, if true, would cause either the Department of Education or the Department of Justice to shut us down immediately.” Statements like that fall short in my view of defamation. They sound like opinion given in the context of a defense to a lawsuit.
The latest complaint also focused on the school’s allegation that the law firm circulated a draft class action complaint on Craigslist and Facebook in an attempt to lure potential plaintiffs.
I am still trying to get a full copy of the complaint.
While the legal field has experienced a downturn, Cooley appears to be generating a fair amount of legal work these days.
15 thoughts on “Law Firm Sues Thomas M. Cooley For Defamation”
Lawyer Professional Liability
Excellent case….. I suppose it’s a case of unintended consequences……
The law record refers to statements made by a claims representant to an advisor(? not lawyer) to Tronsfield, an lawyer identified as potential actor for the insuree, as to the adviseability/necessity to use an attorney in this case. It was then the alleged slander occured as to Tronfield’s competence, etc.
This, if I understand the shielded speech clause, would not appear to qualify; since it was not allegation made in conjunction to an ongoing case.
An layman dips his toe into the water. Warning: Sharks be here.
Corrections are welcome.
Can you link me to the Tronfield case?
Isn’t a defense to an alleged defamation admissable evidence of truth or falsehood? I don’t think that sllegations made in a complaint should be actionable unless they are proven false. I also think that calling the law school criminal was an example of hypebole that could describe acts eithe legal or illegal. Such as a sentence stating: “It’s criminal how he treats his Mother”.
In the “Tronfield” case I think that not only could the statement possibly be proven false, but that it was also intentionally malicious in intent
The article is a bit vague. But what I gather is that someone is claiming that a statement made as an allegation in a Complaint in a lawsuit is defamatory? No, its protected speech. Now, pray tell us a bit about this law school in Michigan that I never heard of. Is it accredited by any agency? Do they hold class or is it some on line thing?
I thought you’d like that one.
That is an intriguing defamation case.
”The first thing we do, let’s [sue] all the lawyers,” was stated by [Cooley] the Butcher in ”Henry VI,” Part II, act IV, Scene II, Line 73.
I was told long ago, by an attorney, that allegations made in lawsuits are not, by definition, defamatory.
“He stated “We believe these particular defendants have crossed the line both legally and ethically, calling us criminals who deceive our students and steal their tuition money, and ascribing to us fraudulent student loan activities and default rates that, if true, would cause either the Department of Education or the Department of Justice to shut us down immediately.” Statements like that fall short in my view of defamation. They sound like opinion given in the context of a defense to a lawsuit.”
Here in Virginia some “opinions” can form the basis for the tort of defamation. Consider the case of Tronfeld v. Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co., 272 Va. 709 (2006). There, Tronfeld, a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer, complained that an insurance adjuster of Nationwide Insurance [Schmidt] had defamed him saying: “That Jay Tronfeld just takes peoples’ money. That clients of Jay Tronfeld would receive more money [for their claims] if they had not hired Jay and had dealt with the adjuster [directly].” Nationwide defended saying that the alleged statements were mere opinion of the adjuster and thus not actionable. Tronfeld argued they were susceptible to being rebutted with proof and thus were facts and not opinions as they appeared to be at first blush. The VA Supreme Court agreed with Tronfeld saying:
The statement “[t]hat Jay Tronfeld just takes people’s money” is capable of disproof by evidence, if adduced, that Tronfeld’s clients received monetary or other relief as a result of his legal services. It would not be a matter of opinion that Tronfeld takes a client’s money without rendering a service of value in return if Tronfeld, for example, produced evidence of a settlement or judgment he obtained for that client.
Schmitt’s other statement, “that clients of Jay Tronfeld would receive more money [for their claims] if they had not hired Jay and had dealt with the adjuster [directly],” could similarly be proven false. The statement would not be opinion if the evidence showed a settlement or judgment Tronfeld obtained for a client which exceeded the offer made by an insurance company to the client prior to the retention of Tronfeld as his or her legal counsel.
Cooley’s claims have the same import as Tronfeld’s if the statements that the Cooley administration consists of “criminals who deceive students and steal tuition money” can be proven false. A check of the criminal blotter should resolve that matter.
The Kurzon law firm may want to stay quiet in Virginia.
Disclaimer: Jay Tronfeld, Esq. is a friend of mine and I worked on this case.
I agree that the statements are mere opinions and not defamation. That being said, there has been a lot of litigation against law schools and some of it may stick. My alma mater, The John Marshall Law School in Chicago was sued along with some other Chicago area schools.
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