According to The Hollywood Reporter, it looks like fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir's lawsuit against singer Courtney Love over Tweets criticizing the designer is going to trial next month. [UPDATE: The National Law Journal reports that a settlement is likely.] If there is no pre-trial settlement, this would apparently be the first defamation trial in U.S. based on comments posted on Twitter.
While this would be the first defamation case involving what could arguably be considered a new medium, the standard requirements in a libel case will apply: that is, Simorangkir will have to show that Love's Tweeted comments would have been reasonably understood to disparage Simorangkir, and that Simorangkir actually suffered damages as a result.
Of course, the recent emergence and innovation in new, web-based media has led to a number of "firsts" in defamation litigation in the past several years.
According to my research for the Media Law Resource Center, the first lawsuit over a "blog" (at least, over a web site that would now be considered a blog) was Holmes v. Ford, No. BC221609 (Cal. Super. defense motion for summary judgment granted Oct. 31, 2000), which was dismissed on summary judgment. The first damage award in a blog libel case was in Banks v. Milum, No. ___ (Ga. Super. verdict for plaintiff Jan. 27, 2006), aff’d, 283 Ga.App. 864, 642 S.E.2d 892 (Ga. App. March 5, 2007), cert. denied (Ga. June 4, 2007), in which a $50,000 award for the plaintiff was affirmed on appeal.
And the first case involving a social networking site that I'm aware of was Chick v. Kuziw, No. RCV-RS093848 (Cal. Super., San Bernardino County filed March 14, 2006), which was settled.
Technologies may change, but defamation lawsuits will apparently always be with us.
* For those you who don't speak Twitter-ese, the headline of this post is, "Oh My God! Twitter Trial Looks Good To Go"