Extracted from Appellate Brief, Number A11-1093
State Of Minnesota Court of Appeals
Tiffany Flowers, Plaintiff/Appellant, V. Peggy Mitchell, Defendant/Respondent
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5. Argument: THE TRIAL COURT IMPROPERLY RULED IN FAVOR OF PEGGY BECAUSE PEGGY’S STATEMENTS WERE IN FACT LIBELOUS
Peggy’s statements were libelous and that fact is supported heavily by case law and statutory law The elements for a defamation action are as follows: the defamatory statement was communicated to someone other than the plaintiff, the statement was false, the statement tends to harm the plaintiff’s reputation and to lower the plaintiff in the estimation of the community, and the recipient of the false statement reasonably understands it to refer to a specific individual. McKee v. Laurion, 825 N.W.2d 752 (2013).
In McKee, a doctor attempted to sue the son of a patient for posting “defamatory statements” on a rate your doctor website. The son was found not guilty, as the statements were either true, simply opinion based, or unable to convey a defamatory meaning. In this case, Peggy should have been found liable, because her statements about Tiffany were not true because there is no scientific way to prove that someone is a “slut”. Peggy’s statements were not opinion based, because she was not discussing her actual view of Tiffany. The word “slut” conveys a very strong defamatory meaning because it insinuates that someone has sex with a large amount of different people.
To meet the first element of a defamatory action, Peggy communicated the statement through a national magazine. Next, the statement about Tiffany was false. Then, the statement harmed Tiffany’s reputation in the community, people began to dislike her and she was fired from her job as a result of her reputation being harmed. To meet the final element, Peggy used Tiffany’s full name, making it obviously known that the statement was in regards to her. The case of Longbehn v. Schoenrock, 727 N.W.2d 153 (Minn. App. Ct. 2007) states that statements are defamatory per se if they falsely accuse a person of having a repugnant disease, of being a criminal, of being unchaste, or of poor conduct in regards to running their business or performing their work duties.
In Longbehn, the defendant accused the plaintiff of being a pedophile because he was a much older man that was dating a young woman. The defendant did not start the rumor of plaintiff being a pedophile, but he did repeat it throughout the town. Although being accused of pedophilia is much more serious that being accused of being a slut as Peggy called Tiffany, the statement about Tiffany still had a detrimental effect on Tiffany’s reputation around town because they reflected upon her chastity. The court in Longbehn found that although the defendant was not responsible for starting the rumor that the plaintiff was a pedophile, he still repeated the term around town and that action made him liable for defamation per se. Peggy’s statements about Tiffany were not defamatory per se, but they were defamatory because they harmed Tiffany’s reputation and they accused Tiffany of being unchaste. Following the decision in Longbehn, the court should find Peggy liable for defamation.
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