In these United States, must you pay $60,000 for the “crime” of publicly telling the truth about someone?
What if you’re a mere blogger rather than a network news anchor?
Back in March of last year, a jury decided that Minneapolis blogger John Hoff must pay $35,000 for lost wages plus $25,000 for emotional distress to Jerry Moore because Hoff had blogged, in 2009, that Moore was involved in mortgage fraud. After Hoff’s post hit the cyberwaves, Moore was booted from the University of Minnesota.
The jury did not find that Hoff had libeled Moore. Instead, Hoff had supposedly committed “tortious interference” with Moore’s employment, presumably by giving the university information that it found convincing and relevant. (Hoff didn’t fire Moore. The university did.)
Luckily, this verdict, though horrific, didn’t provide the final word. The Minnesota Court of Appeals has just overturned it, arguing, in part: “Because truth is an absolute defense to a claim for defamation, truth should also be a defense to a claim for tortious interference with a contract arising out of an allegedly defamatory statement.”
Eugene Volokh of The Volokh Conspiracy judges the case a “big victory for free speech.” Apparently, the First Amendment can take a licking and keep on ticking.
It’s unfortunate, however, that this truth had to be affirmed at the cost of three years of time, trouble and anxiety for Mr. Hoff.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.