19 Jan Virginia: Special Cases – a Lawyer’s Defamation
On January 10, 2014, the Virginia Supreme Court issued its opinion in the alleged defamation case of Webb v. Virginian – Pilot Media Cos., LLC, No. 122024. It affirmed unanimously a trial entering judgment in favor of Defendant, despite a $3,000,000.00 jury verdict for Plaintiff. Id. at 10.
“Where, as here, a plaintiff alleges that he has been defamed not by statements of fact that are literally true but by an implication arising from them, the alleged implication must be reasonably drawn from the words actually used,” stated Webb. “Thus, the question for the circuit court when ruling on the demurrer was whether, as a matter of law, the article is reasonably capable of the defamatory meaning [Plaintiff] ascribes to it.” Id. at 6.
“Ensuring that defamation suits proceed only upon statements which actually may defame a plaintiff, rather than those which merely may inflame a jury to an award of damages, is an essential gatekeeping function of the court,” explained Webb. Id. at 7. Hence defendant was entitled to have its demurrer granted as a matter of law. Id. at 9.