Welp, I did it. It took quite a few days, but I did it. I have completed my gathering of data to explain the sources that I used in the last post. It’s 64 pages long and even has a small bonus source thrown I found while looking up information for another. I’ve become more enlightened, mystified, and especially tired, but it’s done.
Google Drive link to document: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XMqtaU ... sp=sharing
(I don’t cite in these comments based off my readings, as the information that I use is cited in the document, so check there for those and for clarification on terms discussed
Note: In these comments, I am assuming that Vic is considered a “private plaintiff” and that the matter the case is bringing forth is also “private”
. There are different standards for people that are considered “public figures” or “public officials”, who must show “actual malice” where a “private plaintiff” need only show negligence. If Vic is shown to be a “limited-purpose public figure” his standards change. If the matter brought forth is found to be “of public concern” (I find this very unlikely however) then his standards also change even if he is still found to be a “private person”.
. I got a lot of things wrong in my section of how a defamation case starts, so here’s a redo. The whole part about Vic needing to first take an oath is correct, and I will add that one will be found guilty of perjury if they lied to the court to just harm another and/or make money off the case. Now comes the corrections. Vic, as the plaintiff, DOES
have the burden of proof to provide reasonable evidence that the statements the defendants made were false and must also show that the defendants were negligent per the requirements of a private plaintiff in a case of private matters. His standard for doing this would be a preponderance of the evidence, which means that the fact finder would have to find his claim to have above a 50% chance of being true. Now, what Vic specifically must do depends on which of the various motions and defenses the defendants use that are available to them. However, I just wanted to state that you do need evidence to get these cases off the ground and that the burden of proof stays with Vic unless certain paths are taken by the defendants
. I feel like I really messed up explaining the section on truth not shielding a defendant entirely from defamation, so here’s a redo of that. After reading the sources more thoroughly, it becomes clear that a statement DOES
need to be false for a plaintiff to win in a defamation case. What I got confused by was how there are various methods for concluding that a statement is false.
In the case of Texas, they use the “substantial truth doctrine” which looks at the publication’s overall “gist”, where if the “gist” overall correctly conveys the truth but has some errors in its details it is precluded from liability. However, this also means that a publication can be made up of facts but be made in such a way as to still be defamatory by omitting key facts or by juxtaposing them in “suggestive ways”.
The whole part on actual malice being a factor in that was my dumb mistake. Actual malice is something one must prove if they are a certain type of plaintiff (public official, public figure, or a private figure bringing a case involving a matter of public concern) or when a defendant uses a qualified privilege defense. It is defined as making a statement “…with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not”. This must be proved by clear and convincing evidence, which “…is that measure or degree of proof that will produce in the mind of the jury a firm belief or conviction as to the truth of the allegations sought to be established”. The standard of clear and convincing evidence is FAR HIGHER
than preponderance of the evidence.
. Given how the defendants in this case, to my knowledge, are still professing the truth of their statements, they will likely go for a truth defense. If this is their defense (it’s not the only one but the most likely in this case) they have the burden of proof to show that their statements are true. If they can do so, they are able to dismiss the case with Vic having little to no recourse. However, this defense type is essentially an all or nothing gambit, if they fail there is little recourse for them to win.
Another possibility is that they try to obtain a summary judgement. Now, they can perform this motion later in the case, and most times it IS after disposition, but regardless of when it is done the process is the same. The party who brings forth this motion, whether it be the plaintiff or the defendant, will have to show to a trial judge that the case should be closed because “there are no facts which can reasonably be disputed” or that “anyone looking at the facts and applying law would rule in favor of the moving party”.
The former would have them arguing that the case has no material facts to work from, thus making the case itself essentially pointless. The latter would have them arguing that the facts as they are clearly show that their perspective is correct, and that taking the case to trial or continuing one in progress would be pointless.
The danger with summary judgement is that they tend to fail and the party that brought forth the motion not only increases the value of the case for the other party (called a “summary judgement premium”) but they also make the other party’s case stronger, as a trial judge would have to have seen legitimacy in the evidence the other side brought for the motion to fail.
. Many statements made against Vic by the defendants fall under defamation per se
. This is due to “statements imputing the plaintiff committed a crime” and “statements imputing the plaintiff has engaged in sexual misconduct” being two of the four types of statements Texas denotes as such. It’s also possible they could include “statements imputing injury to the plaintiff’s office, business, profession, or calling”, but I don’t THINK this would be the case due to this understanding of it:
“disparagement of a general character, equally discreditable to all persons, is not enough to make it defamatory per se
unless the particular quality disparaged is of such character that it is peculiarly valuable in the plaintiff's business or profession.”
To my knowledge, nothing has been said about Vic that relates to his profession DIRECTLY, such as claiming he uses autotune or gets another to perform for him as examples. I think maybe some statements about him being “difficult” have come up, but I assume those would fall under general character.
Some of them may also fall under Defamation per quod
, or a statement that is defamatory due to circumstances. However, these are not automatically assumed to be defamatory like per se
claims as they are, by their nature, based on circumstance to be defamatory.
Now, what the plaintiff still must prove even with statements considered defamation per se
vary by state. In the case of Texas this is somewhat confusing in a case involving a “private person” involving only “private concerns”, as they state that “It is uncertain whether a private party plaintiff is required to establish negligence when the case involves a matter of exclusively private concern”. However, it then states that “…the Texas Supreme Court said that the First Amendment requires ‘a showing of fault in a defamation per se
claim between private parties over a matter of private concern.’ Hancock, 400 S.W.3d at 65 n.7.
”. Given this strange contradiction, I’m going to assume that that private persons still need to prove negligence given other sources referring to Texas and other sources saying that U.S. courts must do so.
Ultimately, a case comes down to whose lawyers can argue better. You can have all the facts in the world, but if the other lawyer can convince the judge and/or jury that their facts are correct, or at least more relevant, then they are usually going to win the case. However, even though this the ultimate reality of the legal sphere, this doesn’t mean facts should be misused or ignored. I hope that the document I put together is at least fairly accurate, helps us all be a little less ignorant (I mean that in terms of knowledge not as a character flaw) on the subject, and allows us to better understand both the conclusion of this case and the process that caused the conclusion that occurs.
P.S. I highly recommend you read Comparative Defamation Law: England and the United States
if you’re only going to look through one of the sources yourself. It really shows that despite how inane and maddening a lot of U.S. law is, we have immensely powerful laws to protect our freedom of speech that shouldn’t be taken for granted.