Celebrity Courtney Love Cobain received good news from the Los Angeles Superior Court, which ruled that she was not guilty of libel against her former lawyer, Rhonda Holmes. The plaintiff had accused Cobain of online libel after the singer took to Twitter claiming that Holmes had stopped pursuing a legal matter after accepting payment from an outside party.
Why the Courtney Love Libel Case Ended in Cobain’s Favor
According to The Acorn, the court acquitted Cobain because the prosecution did not prove that the defendant definitively knew her statements to be false when spreading them online.
How a Court Determines Libel
California Causes of Action explains that there are two key elements of libel legislation. First, to constitute libel, the offender’s actions must cause the plaintiff to suffer negative effects such as hatred, ridicule, or harm to his or her job. Second, the statements must be factually false, as confirmed by the ruling in Gregory v. McDonnell Douglas Corp.
Essentially, the complainant must be able to prove that the defendant’s statements were defamatory and damaging to the victim, as demonstrated in the case of Savage v. Pacific Gas & Electric. In the suit against Cobain, the prosecution was able to show that Cobain’s claims of Holmes being “bought off” in exchange for dropping a legal case were harmful to the victim’s reputation.
The Crux of the Holmes v. Cobain Issue
The prosecution was able to determine that Cobain was at fault for spreading the message against Holmes since the singer posted the comment on her Twitter account. This fulfilled the standard set by Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., which established that plaintiffs must prove that defendants are responsible for publishing the defamatory comments.
Yet, Holmes’ attorney could not prove that Cobain knew her comments to be false when she “tweeted” them—one necessary criteria for proving libel in civil court.
Navigating the Brave New World of Online Libel
As the Cobain case demonstrates, social media is changing the landscape of libel legislation. Therefore, it’s essential that Internet users understand what constitutes online libel. If your client has been accused of online libel or is seeking to defend him/herself against a suit, consulting a firm specializing in libel and defamation is a must.
Keeping Up With the Most Current Causes of Action
Do you know:
- How to plead a cause of action for violation of the dual employment statute (Labor Code §3602(d))?
- If, or when, the “billed” rate is admissible to prove damages in a negligence case?
- Whether a minor, acting as a social host in his residence, can be held liable for serving alcohol to someone he knows, or should have known, is under the age of twenty-one?
The 2014 update to California Causes of Action answers all these questions and more. It includes:
- Significant revisions to 7 chapters and updated text throughout the book
- 3 new sample complaints
- Coverage of 11 significant California Supreme Court decisions from 2013, on issues ranging from fraud and the parol evidence rule, to damages under the FEHA.