Lawyer Expands Twitter Defamation Claims
|Attorney Todd Levitt|
Interestingly, the new defamation lawsuit also names the opposing counsel in the first case as well as two professors who teach in Central Michigan University's College of Business Administration. For his part, opposing counsel has filed a grievance against Levitt.
Mr. Levitt became a plaintiff litigant when a student at CMU allegedly adopted Levitt's business and law firm persona in a fake Twitter account and began emanating a series of tweets that Levitt says were designed to defame, embarrass and harass. This time last year, the complaint asserts, Levitt had 4500 followers [no easy feat] and was employed as an adjunct professor at CMU.
Last year, Levitt sued the CMU student but the defamation suit was tossed by the trial court and is now on appeal. We blogged about that case in this post.
Levitt has appealed the trial judge's order granting the tweeting student's motion for summary disposition on the basis that for over two months, the student's false Twitter persona gave no indication whatsoever that it was a parody and that the student intended to cause harm to Levitt's law practice through his micro-blog posts.
In the new case, Levitt is claiming that the local newspaper, Mt. Pleasant's Morning Sun, along with one of its reporters and the parent company, tortiously covered his battle with the Tweeting CMU student by intentionally [or recklessly] making misrepresentations about Levitt. Specifically, the complaint attacks one front-page headline that trumpets that Levitt made up a false award -Top College Lawyer- in order to enhance his electronic profile.
There are many many other examples set forth in the complaint. Fellow CMU business professors and adjunct instructors have a separate set of allegations reserved for their purported misdeeds.
We shall see where all of this goes; what a messy brawl. If Levitt prevails in his tort case, it will definitely establish limits to what can be posted about a business on social media.
Meanwhile, Scribd, Volokh Conspiracy via the Washington Post, the ABA Journal, and even named defendant Morning Sun have all started following and reporting on this dispute as it involves the juicy intersection between social media and defamation. So stay tuned for updates and analysis as this case unfolds over the next few years.