Below is my column in The Hill on the new lawsuit against Seattle for its allowing the establishment of an autonomous zone within the city called CHOP. According to the compliant, what Mayor Jenny Durkan called “a summer of love” proved instead to be a month of mayhem resulting in deaths, robberies and sexual assaults. Now the city may be relying an immunity defense despite leaders opposing such defenses for individual police officers.
Supporting free speech is often a difficult task that demands defending the most despised individuals or offensive views in our society. That is certainly the case with Richard Pusey, 42, who became a widely hated figure after he filmed and mocked police officers who were dead or dying on the road after a crash. Pusey has been convicted of the crime of “outraging public decency,” an ambiguous crime that would allow the broad criminalizing of speech. Police officers Lynette Taylor, Glen Humphris, Kevin King and Joshua Prestney lost their lives in the accident.
Project Veritas has followed through with the pledge of its founder James O’Keefe to sue CNN over coverage of the ban imposed by Twitter (The group also sued Twitter in a separate lawsuit). There has been an explosion of such defamation lawsuits including a suit by Dominion against Fox News (For full disclosure, I am a Fox contributor). The lawsuits raise interesting but challenging grounds for media lawsuits.
We previously discussed the defamation lawsuit brought by Major League Baseball Umpire Joe West against former catcher Paul Lo Duca after Lo Duca suggested that West took loans of a hot car in exchange for a more generous strike zone. West has now won a major verdict in New York and $500,000 in damages. Due to a default judgment on liability, it was the ultimate “back door slider.” However, damages was no “cookie” given an interesting debate over the harm caused to West in seeking entry into the Hall of Fame.
I previously wrote about the defamation claims filed by former Rep. Katie Hill has lost a lawsuit against her husband and a variety of other people, including the Daily Mail for reporting on her sex scandal involving a former aide. I stated that the legal basis for the lawsuit against the media was highly dubious and that the underlying stories were protected under the First Amendment as matters of public interest. As expected, the case against the Daily Mail was thrown out by Los Angeles Judge Yolanda Orozco on First Amendment grounds.
We have been discussing a slew of defamation actions this year. Indeed, for a torts professor, this could prove the golden age of defamation. Recently, new such cases were filed against Fox News, CNN, and various public figures. Those cases join various cases against figures like Donald Trump, who recently lost a major ruling. It now seems likely that Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz will be sued in the ongoing scandal involving allegations of sex trafficking. Like many, I was surprised to watch Tucker Carlson’s interview with Gaetz on the first night of the scandal and hear Gaetz identify by name (and law firm) the lawyer who he claims was extorting him. That lawyer is former Justice Department lawyer David McGee, who presumably will be filing a libel action against the congressman. This could prove a “double tap” for Gaetz, 38, who could face a criminal charge and a civil lawsuit as a result of the scandal. Continue reading “Gaetz Could Be Washington’s Latest High-Profile Defamation Defendant”→
I recently wrote about the lawsuit by Rep. Eric Swalwell against former President Donald Trump as a serious miscalculation that could result in a legal vindication for Trump either on the trial or appellate levels. In my view, the lawsuit contravenes free speech as well as controlling case law from the Supreme Court. Now two Capitol Police officers injured during the riot, James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby, have sued on similar grounds with many of the same inherent flaws. The 40-page lawsuit was written by D.C. attorney Patrick Malone, who previously filed ethics complaints against lawyers representing the Trump campaign or the Republican party. Trump lawyers many view this lawsuit as a greater opportunity than a liability for their client.
I previously wrote about the historical and legal perspectives of a biting incident involving one of the presidential pets, Major. Both Biden German Shepherds (Major and Champ) were previously whisked out of town. They were then quietly brought back. Now Major has bitten another person who reportedly required medical attention. In the prior column, I noted that under tort law a dog is afforded (at most) “one free bite” before strict liability applies. Major could now be treated as a known vicious animal for liability purposes.
In my torts class, we discuss sports torts and defenses. One of those issues is the common inclusion of waivers and binding arbitration language on the back of tickets in microscopic type. That issue came up in an interesting case involving the Chicago Cubs. (For full disclosure, I am a lifetime Cubs fan and personally secured their last World Series win). Last week, a three-justice panel of the Illinois First District Appellate Court in Chicago ruled against MLB and the Cubs in seeking to enforce the boilerplate language on arbitration printed on the back of baseball tickets. The Cubs have not been so shocked since Steve Bartman reached out and interfered with Cubs outfielder Moises Alou catching the ball with the Florida Marlins in 2003.
While it has received little coverage in the mainstream media, the conservative group Project Veritas won a major victory against the New York Times this week in a defamation case with potentially wide reach. In a 16-page decision, New York Supreme Court Justice Charles Wood ruled against the newspaper’s motion to dismiss and found that Project Veritas had shown sufficient evidence that the New York Times might have been motivated by “actual malice” and acted with “reckless disregard” in several articles written by Maggie Astor and Tiffany Hsu. The decision will allow the Project access to discovery which can be extremely difficult for a news organization.
We have previously discussed the criminal and civil liability of those posing as doctors. Alcalira Jimenez De Rodriguez, 56, follows a familiar pattern in doing cosmetic surgeries without a license. One of the criminal charges however is concerning.
There is a tragic case out of Omaha that has led to a notable decision over tort liability for psychiatrists. The case involves a patient, Mikael Loyd, who was admitted to Lasting Hope Recovery Center after he told police that he wanted their help in killing his mother. Psychiatrist Jeana Benton determined that he was not a risk at the hospital and he was released. He then strangled his girlfriend, Melissa Rodriguez, who broke up with him during his hospital stay. Her parents, Angela Rodriguez and Adan Rodriguez, sued Lasting Hope and Benton’s employer, University of Nebraska Medical Center Physicians, but the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the action due to a lack of any legal duty to warn or protect the girlfriend.
Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the complaint filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell against former president Donald Trump. Swalwell just filed a complaint that could prove to be the vindication that Trump has long sought in the riot in the Capitol on January 6th.