Neumann v. Liles

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Tort Law
  • Date Filed: 03-03-2016
  • Case #: S062575
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Baldwin, J. for the Court; Balmer, C.J.; Kistler, J.; Walters, J.; Landau, J.; Brewer, J.; & Linder, S.J.
  • Full Text Opinion

The relevant test for whether allegedly defamatory statements are entitled to First Amendment protection is whether a reasonable fact finder could conclude that the statement touching on a matter of public concern implies an assertion of objective fact.

The issues in this case was whether a defamatory statement made in an online business review is entitled to protection under the First Amendment. The applicable test is whether a reasonable factfinder could conclude that an allegedly defamatory statement touching on a matter of public concern implies an assertion of objective fact and is therefore not constitutionally protected. Relevant factors for this analysis are: “(1) whether the general tenor of the entire work negates the impression that the defendant was asserting an objective fact; (2) whether the defendant used figurative oy hyperbolic language that negates that impression; and (3) whether the statement in question is susceptible of being proved true or false.” Liles attended a wedding performed at Plaintiff’s venue and posted a negative review online criticizing the owners. The business filed a defamation lawsuit; Liles filed a motion to strike under Oregon’s anti-SLAPP statute. The trial court dismissed the defamation suit; the Court of Appeals reversed. Liles argued that the comments made are properly understood as his subjective opinion. The Court concluded that Liles’s statements involved matters of public concern and that his post, considered as a whole, reflects Liles’s negative personal and subjective impressions and not an assertion of objective fact. The Court of Appeals decision is reversed and the circuit court decision is affirmed.

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