Dec 15, 2015

Appeals Court Considers Love's Win in Twibel Case

On Dec. 14 the California Court of Appeals, Second District, heard an appeal by attorney Rhonda J. Holmes of her loss in a jury trial in January 2014 to singer Courtney Love over comments posted to Twitter.

The case received a fair amount of attention when it was filed, including from me, because it appeared to be the first libel case in the United States based on a tweet.

While I have not seen any more "twibel" cases in the U.S., I am sure there are some out there. Past cases include another involving Love (which was settled); a landlord's lawsuit against a tenant (which was dismissed); and a doctor's lawsuit against a blogger who rehashed a 10-year-old disciplinary charge (which was also settled). A recent study of British libel cases filed in 2014 found 11 based on social media postings, including Twitter. (Although there are questions about the accuracy of the report.)

Holmes sued Love over a tweet in which the singer accused Holmes, whom she had hired to resolve issues with the estate of Love's husband Kurt Cobain, of being "purchased off." After trial -- the first reported jury trial involving defamation in a tweet -- the jury agreed with Holmes that the tweet falsely alleged that Holmes been bribed to refuse to represent Love. But jury also held that Love had not made the statement with "actual malice," which was required after the trial court held that Holmes was a public figure.

The appeal argues that the jury had been improperly instructed about the requirements for "actual malice."

The case is Gordon & Holmes et al. v. Love, Case No. B256367 (Cal. App., 2d Dist., 4th Div. argued Dec. 14).

h/t Law 360


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