A Reality Television Defamation Showdown Is A’Brewing

Right of Publicity laws
A reality show couple from the show Storage Wars filed a defamation lawsuit against truTV over Facebook posts.

A defamation lawsuit is brewing in reality television world, y’all. Scott Tassone and Christina Kachadorian – a husband and wife team contracted to appear on Storage Hunters – are suing T Group Productions, Inc. and Courtroom Television Network, LLC (a.k.a., truTV) for defamation, harassment and breach of contract. The root of the conflict is a series of comments made on the show’s Facebook page.

How This High Profile Defamation Suit Started

Back in March 2012, Tassone and Kachadorian signed a contract to do 26 episodes of Storage Hunters. The agreement included six additional options for future series.

But things turned sour. As is wont to happen with “relebrities,” unflattering information about the couple and their business hit the wires. Of course people glommed on to the juicy morsels of gossip and the couple was dragged through the online coals. As you can imagine, Storage Hunters’ Facebook page alighted with criticism – some of which was alarmingly violent, threatening and potentially damaging. The two were accused of being liars, con artists and thieves. Some posters even boasted of shutting down the couple’s business.

Plaintiffs Claim Online Chatter Led To A Serious Decline of Their Business

According to Tassone and Kachadorian, the disparaging barrage of online chatter decimated their moving and storage business in California. So, they decided to sue. Not only is the couple going after individual posters, but also truTV and T Group Productions because they “control” the Facebook page on which the comments appeared.

Could Facebook Be Liable For Defamation In This Case?

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects website operators from defamation liability in the United States.  As such, Tassone and Kachadorian would not have much luck suing Facebook for defamation in this case. But if this website were in Europe, it could be a different story. In fact, recently, the European Commission on Human Rights handed down a judgment saying website portals are responsible for user comments.

What The Lawsuit Claim Says

In the claim, the scorned pair contend that T Group and truTV “encouraged other defendants to continue publishing” disparaging comments. Straight up: this will be difficult to prove. Unless the plaintiffs have tangible proof that staff actively pushed users to trash the pair, it’s unlikely a judge will take up their side – for defamation laws in the US are decidedly defendant friendly. Moreover, since the two are public figures, they will most likely have to prove actual malice – meaning they must provide evidence that the defendants knowingly plotted to lie, with the intention of materially damaging Tassone and Kachadorian.

In this case, however, the plaintiffs are suing the production company because notionally, it maintains editorial control over the show’s Facebook page. Actually, one could argue that the page, in it of itself, is a piece of marketing collateral. That said, if the page contains disclaimers distancing themselves from posters’ opinions, Kachadorian and Tassone may be out of luck.

The case was filed in a California court and the couple if asking for $2 million in damages.

We’ll be keeping an eye on this case. If you want to keep updated on our blog, slap your name on our mailing list.

Do you want to consult with a defamation lawyer? Do you need to hire a slander or libel attorney? Yes? Then contact Kelly Warner Law. We have a dedicated defamation legal team that has helped many people quickly cleanup their online defamation conflicts. The quicker you take action, the quicker things can get back to normal. Get in touch today.

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