Defamation

by Allen Drescher

I received a check from the cats’ San Francisco attorney drawn on the bank account of their asset protection LLC to reimburse me, as provided in their indemnification agreement, for the ten dollars that I paid for the damage they caused to Bowser’s water bowl in their failed attempt to punish him for spoiling their week-end in Yachats with the Old Tom.  As promised, I let them out upon receipt of payment.

As the cats were prowling the neighborhood they noticed that the other animals were laughing at them.  They asked the little cat next door, Pee Wee, what  everyone was laughing at. Pee Wee told them that Bowser had spread a story around the neighborhood that the cats were being punished for a trick that they tried to play on him and that they were so stupid and clumsy that even his owner (you) caught them at it.

The cats were humiliated. They were being made a laughing stock in our neighborhood where before they had been regarded as being clever and sly.  Now the animals thought of the cats as being stupid and clumsy and easily caught.     The cats felt that they had been cast in a false light to the detriment of their reputation in the community.  They wanted to sue for defamation, but their San Francisco attorneys were on a six week cruise.  Reluctantly, they consulted me.

I told the cats that truth is a defense to defamation and that they had, in fact, been caught trying to play a trick on Bowser.  The statements that they were stupid and clumsy were a matter of opinion and not false statements of fact and therefore not actionable.  As to their argument that these statements cast them in a false light, this could be argued as being actionable, but Bowser would argue that his comments were limited to this instance in which they had behaved in a stupid and clumsy manner.

The cats decided to retaliate in kind by spreading the story that Bowser is a crybaby and that he ran away from the Old Tom.  They wanted me to give them a written opinion that these statements would not be actionable before they spread these statements around the neighborhood.  Since the first statement is a matter of opinion and the second statement is true, I agreed to provide them with my written opinion, but I decided to first run it by my malpractice carrier, given the cats’ litigious nature.

Allen Drescher has practiced law in Ashland and Southern Oregon since 1973.  His practice areas include business law, real estate, estate planning and elder law.

© Allen Drescher