It’s been a few weeks since a funny defamation lawsuit landed in the ole’ inbox. But thanks to a baseball fan in New York, happy days law laughs are here again!
A Man Fell Asleep At A Baseball Game; Mocked By Anchors…
On April 14, Andrew Robert Recto headed to Yankee Stadium. The Bronx Bombers had a scheduled showdown with long-time rivals, the Red Soxs. During the game, Recto dozed off – and the audience cam caught him snoozing.
Did the game anchors give the slumbering fan a pass? Of course not! This is Yankee Stadium, people!
Upon spotting Recto on the jumbotron, ESPN game anchors Dan Shulman and John Kruk went from play-by-play game commentary, to audition tape for Real Housewives Anchorman of New York.
…So The Mocked Man Filed A Defamation Lawsuit
Since snark is the fuel on which the media now runs, Recto’s roasting went viral. When the sleeping Yankee fan heard the less-than-kind quips, he did what anybody looking to strike the legal lottery would do — he sued.
Recto claimed defamation. He insisted the incident caused him “mental anguish”, not to mention “loss of future income” and “earning capacity”. ESPN New York, Major League Baseball Advanced Media and the Yankees were all named defendants.
Does The Jumbotron Man Have A Legitimate Defamation Case?
In a statement, a spokesperson for ESPN said the defamation claim was “wholly without merit.”
And ESPN is almost certainly correct.
It’s never wise to predict the outcome of a case with 100% certainty, but if this one makes it to trial, a whole lot of legal watchers’ jaws will drop. Here’s why:
- A statement isn’t defamatory if it’s just an opinion. Legally speaking, defamation is a negligent false statement of fact, not an unflattering opinion.
- In order to emerge victorious in a defamation lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that he or she suffered a material loss as a result of the statement(s) under review.
- The plaintiff must prove that the defendant acted, at the very least, negligently.
The argument could be made that Shulman and Kruk were negligent in their assumptions about Recto, but it’s unlikely that Recto suffered any real harm as a result of the incident? Moreover, while arguably immature, the ESPN spokes boys didn’t make any false statements of fact about Recto.
Is a defamation situation cramping your style? Get in touch with Kelly / Warner Law, today. We are a top-rated, well-respected law firm that focuses on all things defamation – for both individuals and businesses. Reach out today to begin the conversation. The quicker you handle the matter, the better life will be.
Victor Fiorillo’s article on Phillymag.com makes Philadelphia’s Landlord Tenant Court sound like the dreaded “Fourth Floor” in Pawnee’s City Hall – dank, drab and filled with agitated litigants lulled into a drone-like state thanks to the monotony of bureaucracy. But as Fiorillo explained, an unusual case recently perked the place up. Matthew and Michael Pestronk – two developer brothers who were publicly known, thanks to a “union-busting” campaign they launched earlier in the year – were suing one of their tenants, Marissa Damato, for defamation. While the court regularly heard cases involving rent, sub-par living conditions and lease disagreements, slander and libel was rarely on the docket.
In The Beginning: The Road To A Landlord Tenant Defamation Lawsuit
Despite acknowledging, presumably via signing the lease, that their new building – built by the Pestronks’ company, Post Brothers – was still under construction, Marissa Damato, her husband and kids moved into the Rittenhouse Hill apartment in West Mouth Airy, Pennsylvania. From the sounds of it, Damato and her family were not thrilled with their location. According to them, the elevators in their building constantly malfunctioned and piles of dirt made navigating the grounds difficult and dangerous (not to mention the open wires). Rodents running rampant also infuriated the new family, and presumably presented certain health risks.
Marissa, a concerned mom, decided to take her complaints to the Fifth Estate. She called Fiorillo in an attempt to expose the less than pristine conditions at Rittenhouse; Damato referred to her landlords, the Pestronk brothers, as “slumlords.” From the sounds of it, Fiorillo didn’t jump right on the story; but then the Pestronk brothers started to grouse about Damato loitering in the hallways and accosting prospective renters with tales of the buildings woes; they also believed she took her gripes online in the form of uncomplimentary, anonymous Internet epistles.
A lawsuit landed on Damato’s doorstep and Fiorillo decided to explore the case a little closer.
The Defamation Lawsuit: “Get Out Of Our Digs For Talking Trash!”
Presumably the Post Brothers were done with Damato’s demands and disses. Perhaps emboldened by their summer success fighting what they characterized as “bully unions,” Matt and Mike filed a lawsuit against Marissa and her family. In a creative legal maneuver, the brother developers decided to file a defamation lawsuit. Their ultimate goal was to evict Damato for “interfering with the landlord’s business.”
In their lawsuit, the Post Brothers supposedly detailed their displeasure with Damato’s behavior and her constant complaints about their building. They alleged that even though the online diatribes were penned anonymously, they were “just obviously her.”
So there the two parties found themselves, in the dank Landlord Tenant court – about to begin a defamation battle.
Speculation: Who Will Win This Landlord Tenant Defamation Case?
Without reading the actual filing, it’s impossible to say who will win this interesting defamation lawsuit; and unfortunately, I’ve not been able to get my hands on it. Nevertheless, based on the information gathered in Fiorillo’s article, two questions emerge that will most likely be central to the case.
Did The Damato’s Agree To The Conditions?
If Marissa and her family did sign a legal contract which outlined the types of disturbances they would encounter by living in the building while still under construction, the Post Brothers will probably have a pretty good shot at winning this case.
Was It Really Marissa Who Was Bad-Mouthing The Brothers Online?
It sounds like the Post Brothers are equally upset with Damato’s possible online grousing as they are with her alleged disparaging hallway warnings to prospective leasers. She, however, says it isn’t her doing the Internet griping. As such, the brothers will most likely have to get a subpoena to unearth the name of the anonymous malcontent. If they succeed in obtaining the subpoena, and the person isn’t her, there goes half their case. If it is her, she may be out of luck – but only if her online tirades contained provably false statements of fact. If the statements in question are merely Marissa’s opinions about the building and factual accounting, she most likely won’t be held liable for exercising her right to free speech.
Kelly / Warner will be keeping an eye on this defamation lawsuit – after all, it’s not every day that a slander or libel case lands in landlord tenant court. To keep up with other Internet and defamation law news, sign up for our newsletter. If you need to speak with a defamation attorney about a matter, get in touch!