Hyperbolic “____sucks.com” Blog Cleared of Defamation Liability

The Mark O Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in Portland, Ore. (Photo: EEJ)

An interesting case out of Oregon has held that because of the “looser, more relaxed communication style” of blogs, it was not defamatory for blogger Crystal Cox of obsidianfinancesucks.com to accuse bankruptcy trustee Kevin Padrick of various forms of perfidy.

Cox’s blogged allegations against Padrick includeed money laundering, perpetrating “fraud on the courts,” and engaging in various “illegal activity.”

Most stunning to me, however, was that in one post, Cox strongly implied that Padrick had engaged in “Solar Tax Credit Crimes.” If that doesn’t sound reputation-harming to you, consider the geographical context: This took place in Portland, Oregon, my friends.

True story: P-Town is so environmentally conscious, that even at McDonald’s, after you bus your own table, you have to separate out your recyclables.

So I can only imagine that for Porlanders, Solar Tax Credit Crimes are right up there with murder, arson, and aggravated failure to compost.

But Cox didn’t merely imply things. Cox blogged that Padrick was a “Thief,” a “CRIMINAL,” and a “Corrupt Attorney.”

If you were taking a law school exam, you would quickly identify those statements as being factual assertions, which, if provably false and reptuation harming, could give rise to a claim for defamation.

But the federal court in Oregon took a more realist approach. It concluded that, under the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable reader could not have regarded the statements as provably false assertions.

Why not?

The court said that “the extensive use of hyperbolic and figurative language, and the posting of several questions rather than statements,” tended to show that Cox’s statements were not reasonably to be regarded as provable factual assertions.

What’s more, it mattered that the medium at issue was a blog. The court’s August 23 order, according to the RCFP report, explained: “Blogs are a subspecies of online speech which inherently suggest that statements made there are not likely provable assertions of fact[.]”

Yikes. If this is a victory for blog freedom, it sure comes with a sting.

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5 Responses to “Hyperbolic “____sucks.com” Blog Cleared of Defamation Liability”

  1. Nice Post, And Consider I am out of Montana and Not Oregon and These Same Attorneys Sued the State of Oregon Over Solar Credit Law Changes, the Story is quite large and my purpose was simply to give voice to real estate victims. Thank You for Discussing this Story.

  2. Stephen says:

    Would you know of someone who can help crystal cox defend in this suit. She I going pro se, and I am afraid she will lose on procedure grounds. She is a friend of mine, I am not an attorney, and I have been trying to help her out on procedure issues, but it is to hard for me not being an attorney. Please find someone who would be interested incontacting her.

    Thanks
    Stephen.

  3. Eric E. Johnson says:

    I’ll blog about it later today.

  4. Michael says:

    This blog reported the facts to thier audience, but it is still the authors opinion as in the Cox case. What happens when lawyers commit crime? All we have are blogs to expose them. Since when is a law exam “law”? All I can see is lawyers defining the law, to avoid their own culpability. This Judge in Portland uphleld the ultimate law, the Constitution. IT is not being taught in law schools. If this law blog is shocked at the opinion of a federal judge upholding the US Constitution, please look at your “instututions” of higher learning: law schools which are failing the American people.

  5. It is a great day when justice does prevail. Blogs are a form of speech for those of use who have no forum. If you think that freedom of speech comes from using your vote to influence change and making people aware of what injustices could or could not be going on, you depend on the few who have their own agendas. Your voice is not in a vote. Television shows such as politically incorrect are allowed to say what they think and viewers are allowed to agree or disagree. Another point the judge made in this case is that there is a forum for discussion on these blogs. However, many are scared to comment due to scary, rich, greedy, and scrupulous attorneys or other powerful people and entities who may sue you and/or torment you so that they can continue to do whatever they want regardless of the rules and regulations. You see there are those who are under the law and persecuted by the law – most of us Americans and there are those who are above the law with no monitoring – US Government, Wall Street, Banks, IRS, FBI and the grand judicial system. Once you are above the law, you don’t have to worry about following it because no one is monitoring you. They are monitoring us on a daily basis and that is AOK with everyone!@$%# It is only natural for those of us under the law to try to fight this unequality. Lucky for us we have blogs so our voice can be heard and people can at least question what they read. In this case, the judge believed the posting suggests opinion rather than fact or at least a reasonable reader would not assume the content was fact. I don’t believe Crystal Cox is writing a nonfictional book here, she is writing about her opinions, what the word is on the street, and what she believes in. Pretty much what is going on in this particular blog.