Chief Aircraft, Inc. v. Grill

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
  • Date Filed: 11-08-2017
  • Case #: A155317
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Aoyagi, J. for the Court; Tookey, P.J.; Hadlock, C.J.
  • Full Text Opinion

To determine whether a defamatory statement that involves a matter of public concern is protected by the First Amendment, the court must make a determination that “a reasonable factfinder could conclude that the statement implies an assertion of objective fact.” That determination is based off a three-part test: (1) whether the general tone of the publication as a whole “negates the impression that the defendant was asserting an objective fact;” (2) whether the defendant’s own language (e.g. figurative or hyperbolic) “negates that impression;” and (3) “whether the statement at issue is susceptible of being proved true or false.” Neumann v. Liles, 358 Or 706, 718-22, 369 P3d 1117 (2016).

Defendant made defamatory statements about Plaintiff on Twitter and ripoffreport.com, a consumer website. The trial court denied Defendant’s Anti-SLAPP motion and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Defendant sought review by the Oregon Supreme Court, which resulted in the case being remanded back the Court of Appeals. This present appeal was reconsidered in light of an Oregon Supreme Court decision, Neumann v. Liles, 358 Or 706, 369 P3d 1117 (2016), that adopted a new framework to determine if defamatory statements are protected by First Amendment. To determine whether a defamatory statement that involves a matter of public concern is protected by the First Amendment, the court must make a determination that “a reasonable factfinder could conclude that the statement implies an assertion of objective fact.” That determination is based off a three-part test: (1) whether the general tone of the publication as a whole “negates the impression that the defendant was asserting an objective fact;” (2) whether the defendant’s own language (e.g. figurative or hyperbolic) “negates that impression;” and (3) “whether the statement at issue is susceptible of being proved true or false.” Neumann at 718-22. The Court of Appeals concluded that Defendant’s statements made on Twitter are protected, but the statements on ripoffreport.com are not. Under the first prong of Neumann, ripoffreport.com professes itself as a truth-finding website. Under the second prong, Defendant’s statements are not hyperbolic or figurative. Under the third prong, the statements are vague, but still susceptible to being proved true or false. The Court held that Neumann rule does not change its decision to deny Defendant’s anti-SLAPP motion because Defendant's statements are not protected by the First Amendment. Affirmed.

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