Monday, September 22, 2008
Not a legal profession case, but worthy of note, is a decision today from the New Jersey Supreme Court reversing the grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a defamation and tortious interference case. Plaintiff runs a boardwalk arcade game in Wildwood. Defendant owned a nearby competitor and was alleged to have had his employees broadcast over a public address system that plaintiff was "dishonest" and a "crook" who "ran away and screwed all of his customers in Seaside." The Appellate Division concluded that the "actual malice" standard applied and affirmed the trial court's summary judgment order.
The court here rejected the actual malice standard:
This was not a case of disinterested investigative news reporting. Defendants' employees were basically scaring plaintiff's customers away. Their speech was not more highly valued because they charged a rival with consumer fraud rather than a peccadillo. In a competitive market, it cannot be that the bigger the lie the more the free speech protection for the publisher of the lie
The fact that the boardwalk games industry is "highly regulated" did not alter the result. (Mike Frisch)