Internet Libel Lawsuits | When a Lawsuit Contains Defamatory Statements
Los Angeles Celebrity Attorney Adrianos Facchetti of the Law office of Adrianos Facchetti and Author of the California Defamation Law Blog discusses his experiences as a defamation, libel and slander attorney for both plaintiffs and defendants. In this short interview, Attorney Facchetti discusses some tactics that are being used by some internet libel attorneys today that are solely designed to harass, defame and gain advantage over an opposing side in litigation, and why these tactics should never be employed.
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Damien Allen: Good afternoon and welcome to Defamation Law Radio. My name is Damien Allen, and today joining me, via the telephone, from the West Coast, we have Adrianos Facchetti of the Law Office of Adrianos Facchetti. Good afternoon, Adrianos, and welcome to the program.
Adrianos Facchetti: Hi, Damien. Thanks for having me.
Damien Allen: It’s a pleasure to have you with us today, sir. Now, we just checked out your blog not too long ago about how some celebrity lawyers do it and why your lawyers shouldn’t, and I know there’s been a case where a lower level director is suing one of your clients, and there’s been a lot of allegations that have been dropped into the case here. Is the insertion of irrelevant matter really that big of a problem these celebrity cases or even in a regular person’s case, is this really a problem that’s popping up a lot?
Adrianos Facchetti: I guess I can answer that question in one of two ways. If you’re asking me whether it comes up in most or in many cases, the answer is probably no. But if you’re asking me the extent to which it may negatively affect the case, then the answer is yes, it is a big deal.
Damien Allen: What type of damage does this type of name calling, muckraking, muddying the waters do to a case, whether it’s from the prosecution side or from the defense side?
Adrianos Facchetti: Well, I think basically and fundamentally it decreases the likelihood that a case is going to settle because it creates more anger and antipathy between the parties and results in a sort of a “tit for tat” situation, where the defendant, or the plaintiff, whoever is using this kind of tactic, is going to want to respond in kind or even try to escalate the problem in litigation. Even though this might make some defense lawyers happy, who are being paid by the hour, it’s definitely not a good thing for either the plaintiff or the defendant in terms of their pocketbooks or their mental health.
Damien Allen: Now, could you give the audience some kind of examples to what happens in a situation like this? A suit has been levied and it may be internet libel, it may be slander, but then, somebody is dropping off more information that has nothing to do with the case, or other examples that you can share with the audience of how this is working.
Adrianos Facchetti: One example is a case that I have where a lower level director inserted, basically, he filed a lawsuit for internet libel and slander, and inserted allegations about my client’s past sexual history that had no basis in fact whatsoever and are totally irrelevant to his claims of slander and libel. It has no business being in the lawsuit, and it’s only there and designed to harass my client and to try and gain an advantage in the litigation. So, that’s definitely one of the more atrocious examples, but it happens in other cases as well where there is celebrity litigation, and either the plaintiff or defendant will, in a pleading or in a deposition, drop certain information because they know it’s potentially negative towards the other person and potentially embarrassing.
Damien Allen: Now, as these additional allegations are added, do the courts have problems with this type of strategy being used in litigation by either party’s counsel?
Adrianos Facchetti: Absolutely. Courts see right through it. Judges recognize that these types of tactics are pretty much nothing more than an attempt to prejudice the defendant or the plaintiff in the eyes of the public and a court. And judges just don’t like it. In fact, it may negatively affect the parties using these kinds of tactics, because the judge is a human, and if they see this happening, at least on a subconscious level, it may affect which way your next motion goes if you’re a plaintiff or a defendant.
Damien Allen: Well, if these tactics are being used, what’s the best defense that an attorney or counsel can use in this type of case?
Adrianos Facchetti: Well, if the lawsuit has already been filed, so to speak the genie’s already out of the bottle, what I would do is immediately file a motion to strike the irrelevant allegations. That means, that the court would, sort of like using a scalpel, remove those allegations. And then perhaps, I’d probably request sanctions against opposing counsel and his or her client to sort of punish him or her for having misused the judicial system in this way. And I guess, whether I would request sanctions would depend on how egregious the allegations were. Of course, the best strategy is to prevent this from occurring in the first place by talking with the plaintiff’s counsel before a lawsuit is filed, if possible. But that’s part of the problem and why this tactic is so frustrating to deal with, because once these kinds of allegations, which are irrelevant, are out there in the public, the damage has already been done to a certain extent.
Damien Allen: What type of sanctions could be dropped somebody if a situation like this occurs?
Adrianos Facchetti: Well, what you could do is bring some sort of sanctions motion and say, “Your Honor, we had to bring this motion to strike. These are irrelevant allegations, we should get our attorneys’ fees for having to bring this motion. These irrelevant allegations should have never been inserted in the first place.” So, you might get a small amount of money to cover the attorneys’ fees that were necessarily expended to bring the motion itself and just to punish. The court may issue sanctions of its own, punish counsel for allowing these kinds of allegations to be in a complaint when it has no reason to be in the complaint in the first place.
Damien Allen: Now it’s obvious what kind of damage all the extra irrelevant matter can be in the court of public opinion. But what if you’re standing in front of a jury, how do you get the jury to unhear something they’ve already heard?
Adrianos Facchetti: Well, the juries only…let’s say, take a complaint, for example. The jury is only going to hear the most recent or the most operative complaint. Let’s say the original complaint contains these irrelevant allegations. Now, as defense counsel, I would bring a motion to strike, get those stricken, and then the jury would never hear those. That’s not really an issue. A secondary thing you can do is, if the other counsel is going to try to bring these things up, you can deal with it in advance of the trial by bringing what’s called a motion in limine, which means you would ask the court to eliminate these kinds of irrelevant kind of facts before it even gets heard by the jury. So, that’s the two ways lawyers deal with these kinds of things.
Damien Allen: We’d like to thank you very much for joining us today, Adrianos, and discussing those with us.
Adrianos Facchetti: Thanks for having me.
Damien Allen: You’ve been listening to Defamation Law Radio. Thank you very much for joining us today. My name is Damien Allen. Everybody have a great afternoon.