Dec 25, 2013

2014 May Start with Twitter Trial

We've been fooled before. Unless there's a settlement within the next three weeks, the new year will begin with a trial in the "twibel" case brought by a former attorney for Courtney Love over a tweet sent by the singer.

As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, a California judge denied Love's motion for summary judgment after a Dec. 20 hearing, and set the case for trial on Jan. 13, 2014.

The case, Gordon & Holmes v. Love, No. BC462438 stems from a tweet that Love sent in 2010, after she hired and then fired attorney Rhonda J. Holmes to file suit over the administrators of the estate of Love's husband, singer Kurt Cobain. Holmes and her law firm claim that Love fired her after they insisted she remain (drug-free) during the case. Love found another lawyer, according to the suit, then returned to ask Holmes to again take the case. This time Holmes declining, citing scheduling conflicts. This led Love to tweet, "I was fucking devestated when Rhonda J. Holmes esq. of san diego was purchased off @FairNewsSpears maybe you can get a quote" [sic].

In the motion seeking summary judgment, Love's attorneys argued that the internet as a medium was full of opinion and hyperboyle, and that her tweet about Holmes could not be taken seriously. Several courts have accepted this reasoning in dismissing libel suits over internet content. But the judge in the suit against Love did not"The cases relied upon by Defendant are inapposite, because they involve statements quite different from a Tweet," Judge Michael Johnson wrote in his ruling. "In our case the statements involved comments that Defendant made about her own lawyer in a widely used Internet vehicle for communicating personal views."

This is actually the third libel case involving Love over tweets. A suit filed against Love by fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir over a tweet was settled, as was another brought by "cookie diet" doctor Sanford Siegal.

Recently Love has been sued again by Simorangkir, this time for a Pintrist post.

If the Twitter case brought by the lawyers goes to trial, it appears that it will be the first libel trial in the United States over comments posted on Twitter, and may set a precedent for how courts should deal with libel and other claims based on tweets.

For a case that started with less than 140 characters -- actually, Love used only 124 -- Gordon & Holmes v. Love may speak volumes.


jen jones said...

My understanding is that the judge distinguished this case based on the statements being made as statements of fact and having specific factual context. The comments made included the statement by Courtney Love that her attorney had been “bought off”. These statements were subscribed to world-wide. These statements are not opinion, Courtney’s attorneys seem to be missing the point that a person who makes their living with their reputation has had their reputation permanently compromised because of the publicity.

There are people that will not guess as to whether or not Courtney’s statements are accurate and will avoid using the attorney’s law firm. There is no shortage of attorneys in L.A., why take the chance with one can be “bought off”.

The award against Courtney could be very large and affirmed on appeal.

jen jones said...

Twibel is now about to enter the contemporary lexicon, thanks to Ms. Love. Slander awards in California can be in the tens of millions of dollars, (one in the hundreds of millions). Courtney does not have enough net worth to be risking a trial award that she is facing, this could permanently compromise Courtney's net worth.

The Judge's ruling on Courtney's summary judgment application is a pre-cursor to his instructions to the jury - the statements made by Courtney are to be assessed by the jury from the perspective of whether or not they are true, malicious, and whether or not there was conduct on the part of Rhonda Holmes (Courtney's attorney) that warranted these comments.

Having read Courtney's defense, I would say Courtney's attorneys have missed the point and have set the stage for Courtney to end up with an enormous judgment against her. Courtney is now on her second law firm in the defense of this action.

Stand by for the jury verdict - this will be legal history and it will be big dollars.

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