Oct 11, 2011

A New Contender in Oregon

For a while I've been tracking a number of defamation cases stemming from posts on Twitter -- including several involving singer Courtney Love -- to see which would be the first Twitter libel case to go to trial in an American court. Now a new contender -- a case from Oregon -- has emerged as a possible contender.

As Sally Ho reports in an article -- in which I'm quoted -- in The (Portland) Oregonian, a Tigard, Oregon physician has filed a defamation suit against a woman who blogged and tweeted about his highly-advertised "aesthetic medicine" practice, including reporting on a 2001 order by Oregon's Medical Board that he not be alone with female adult patients after a patient accused him of offering to accept intimate (but non-intercourse) physical contact in lieu of payment. (The Board lifted the limitations in a subsequent 2009 order.)

The defense is seeking to get the case dismissed under Oregon's anti-SLAPP statute (Ore. Rev. Stat. 31.150), which allows for easy dismissal of defamation lawsuits found to be primarily filed as a means of limiting discussion of an issue of public interest. The court has already ruled that the 2001 order was an issue of public interest; a hearing next week will examine the other question under the anti-SLAPP statute, the viability of the plaintiff's case.

If the anti-SLAPP motion is not granted, and the case is not dismissed, this case may be a new contemder for the dubious distinction of being the first trial in a Twitter defamation case. Stay tuned...