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Courts cracking down on irresponsible bloggers

Unfortunately, there is no online eraser. Once you blog about something, you can never take it back. Automatic cache systems, other bloggers and the subjects of your blogs are sure to make copies available in perpetuity. It is therefore very important to make sure BEFORE you post that your blog cannot be considered libelous.

USA Today has reported a jury has awarded Sue Scheff $11.3 million in a defamation lawsuit against Carey Bock who allegedly posted online messages accusing Scheff of being a “crook,” a “con artist” and a “fraud.” One factor in the large award is the fact that Bock reportedly could not afford an attorney and did not show up for the trial.

Even if you do show up for trial, however, you may find it difficult to defend yourself in an online defamation lawsuit. Angry plaintiffs have filed dozens of defamation lawsuits just in the last year. Although difficult to win, they can be costly to defend. In January, 2006, lawyer Rafe Banks obtained a $50,000 judgment against former client David Milum for postings Milum made on his blog.

One of the things that make defamation suits so problematic is that the plaintiffs are often so fixated on the perceived wrong they are willing to spend far more than they could ever hope to recover vindicating their rights. The two take home lessons here are: 1) fact check your sources before posting anything online; and 2) if you are going to defame someone online, best not make it someone who makes a living suing people.

Brett Trout

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