After an online news site accused the executive producer of a documentary on the Mayan civilization of filming illegally and fleeing Mexico with the recorded footage, the executive producer sued the site for defamation and false light invasion of privacy. Issues included (1) whether the statements in the article were false; (2) whether the executive producer was a public figure and, if so, whether she produced sufficient evidence to establish actual malice; (3) whether the article was privileged under Civ. Code, § 47, subd. (d); and (4) whether Civ. Code, § 48a (requiring a demand for retraction) applied and precluded the executive producer from establishing damages.
In a complicated dispute between, on the one hand, three members of a homeowners’ association’s board of directors, and on the other hand, a homeowner member of the association and his tenant, the board members filed a 442-page complaint against the owner and tenant alleging, among other claims, two claims for libel per se and two for slander per se. Issues included whether the statements on which the claims were based constituted nonactionable opinions, and whether (as limited purpose public figures) the board members could prove that the owner and tenant acted with actual malice.
A public elementary school teacher sued her school district’s superintendent and the school district for defamation, based on the superintendent’s comments characterizing the teacher as having acted unprofessionally and comparing her attitude to that of the villain in a popular animated film. Issues included whether the superintendent’s comments were subject to the absolute privilege accorded statements made by a government official in proper discharge of his official duties. under Civ. Code, § 47, subd. (a).
Hon. Thomas L. Willhite, Jr. (Ret.)
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