Oregon Case Law Update: Court Upholds Defamation Claim for Tweets and Customer Website Reviews
From the desk of Josh Hayward: In Oregon, individuals who make false statements about another person or business entity may be subject to a defamation claim. However, certain statements are not subject to a defamation claim because they are protected by the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In a case where a customer posts a “tweet” and an online review of a merchant, will those statements be protected from a defamation claim under the First Amendment? Read on to find out.
Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of a defamation suit brought against an angry customer, the Court of Appeals used a new three-part test adopted by the Oregon Supreme Court to determine if statements are subject to protection by the First Amendment. The court looked to the words used in context. In this case, the dispositive question in the court’s analysis was whether or not the statement “implies an assertion of objective fact.” The case serves as a helpful illustration and reminder of which statements may be subject to defamation claims, and how courts analyze whether such statements are protected by the First Amendment.
Chief Aircraft, Inc. v. Grill, 288 Or App 729 (2017)
Eric Grill (“Grill”) was a pilot who owned a small plane. Grill wanted to purchase a preheater for his plane, from Chief Aircraft, Inc. (“Chief Aircraft”), an online seller of aircraft parts. When Chief Aircraft tried to process Grill’s credit card payment Chief Aircraft received an error message, requiring Grill to call in with voice authentication or else the transaction would be voided. They conveyed the information to Grill. Grill was frustrated and called his credit card company to verify, but accidentally called the wrong company. Grill then posted a “tweet” on his Twitter account and wrote a review regarding Chief Aircraft on