A recent decision by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has sent shockwaves clear across the ocean. An article in the British newspaper The Guardian, calls the court’s ruling “a stunning deviation from the idea that a defamatory statement cannot be found libelous unless it is proven false.” This ruling, which overturned a lower court’s decision, allows a former Staples employee to proceed with his libel suit against that company.
“The ruling is troubling on so many levels that it beggars the imagination,” Robert Bertsche, a prominent Boston media lawyer, told me by email. “Begin with the court’s ruling that one can be found liable in damages for making a statement that is indisputably true. That is a notion that flies in the face of everyone’s most basic understanding of what libel is. With this decision, the first amendment has been replaced by the maxim: ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it’.”
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