Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Getting Mad And Even

sunEthics sunEthics has a report on a decision that will hearten lawyers who are trashed on line by former clients

 Lawyer Giustibelli represented Blake in a divorce from her husband, Birzon.  After a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship, Blake and Birzon posted negative online reviews regarding Giustibelli.  The reviews stated that Giustibelli charged Blake 4 times the amount of fees originally quoted, that she lacked integrity, and that she falsified a contract.  Alleging that the reviews were defamatory, Giustibelli sued Blake and Birzon for libel.  The trial court entered a judgment of $350,000 in punitive damages for Giustibelli.  Blake and Birzon appealed.

The Fourth DCA affirmed.  Blake and Birzon contended that “their internet reviews constituted statements of opinion and thus were protected by the First Amendment and not actionable as defamation.”  The appeals court disagreed.  “all the reviews contained allegations that Giustibelli lied to Blake regarding the attorney’s fee. Two of the reviews contained the allegation that Giustibelli falsified a contract. These are factual allegations, and the evidence showed they were false.”  Appellants’ reliance on Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. 418 U.S. 323 (1974), was misplaced.  Giustibelli was not a media defendant, and for non-media defendants libel per se still exists in Florida. Blake v. Giustibelli, __ So.3d __ (Fla. 4th DCA, No. 4D14-3231, 1/6/2016), 2016 WL _______.

(Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2016/01/getting-mad-and-even.html

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Comments

If one would take the time to read the trial transcript, as I did, The Defendants did not admit that the accusations against Giustibelli were false. The appeals Court apparently didn't read the appeal. One indication of that is that the Appeals Court stated that Giustibelli was awarded $350,000.00 in Punitive Damages. Please, someone, read the final judgement by the lower court and tell me where punitive damages are assessed It's not there. The Appellant court was also asked to review by DeNovo which, they did not. What a bunch of Clowns Florida has as Judges.

Posted by: William Doores | Jan 29, 2016 6:34:54 PM

William: please send me a copy of the judgment and trial transcript. It is not available online anywhere.

Posted by: Larry Bodine | Jan 30, 2016 9:18:38 AM

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