Defense Win! - Smith Freed Eberhard
Tuesday, June 7, 2022
by: Joy Lee

Section: Spring 2022

Court Dismisses Defamation Action with Prejudice

In Jesse Robbins v. Vietnamese Today News, LLC, Joy Lee from Smith Freed Eberhard represented a local Vietnamese newspaper in Seattle, Washington.  According to the Complaint, Plaintiff was a single counter-protestor at an October 17, 2020, political rally organized in support of Donald Trump and other political candidates.  While at this rally, Plaintiff was involved in a physical altercation with an individual, leading Plaintiff to “use physical force to defend himself” against this individual. Thereafter, two consecutive articles about this event were published in this local newspaper. Plaintiff disputed the characterization of his involvement in the incident and alleged information contained in the two publications were false and defamatory.  Specifically, Plaintiff alleged the publication made an accusation and implication about his involvement in the communist party and foreign governments.  As a result, Plaintiff alleged seven causes of action against her client: (1) defamation; (2) defamation per se; (3) false light; (4) outrage; (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (6) negligence; and (7) civil conspiracy.   In response, Ms. Lee filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that all of Plaintiff’s claims failed as a matter of law because the articles contained protected speech under the First Amendment.  Specifically, Ms. Lee argued that an allegedly defamatory statement must be a statement of fact, not a statement of opinion, “and rhetorical hyperbole and statements that cannot reasonably be interpreted as stating actual facts [arguing this was the case here] are protected under the First Amendment.”  After hearing oral arguments from both sides, Ms. Lee received an order later that day granting her motion and dismissing the case with prejudice.