David R. Hartwig, ESQ.
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April 2017 Archives

Are bad online reviews defamation? Spencer v. Glover

The Utah Court of Appeals has issued an opinion addressing that questions, The case is Spencer v. Glover, just released.This case involves an attorney who represented a client in a divorce. The client subsequently posted a lengthy and derogatory review of the attorney. After attorney asked client to remove the review and client's refusal, attorney sued for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and intentional interference with prospective economic relations.Client moved to dismiss all claims under Rule 12(b)(6), failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The trial court granted that motion, determining client's statements were mere opinion and that the other claims were not sufficiently supported.The Court of Appeals held that the trial court had correctly dismissed attorney's defamation claim, because the review was an expression of opinion, and the underlying facts were not defamatory. In reaching that conclusion, the court found that client was in a nasty divorce, upset about funds owed to the attorney, and worried about the division of assets in the divorce.Sure the client used hyperbolic phrases throughout the review, per the Court of Appeals. But that was okay because in the context of the review "it is unlikely that any reader would take [the review] at face value... most readers would view it as exaggerated commentary expressing [client's] frustration." So, that is the state of defamation and online reviews. Per our Courts, readers of negative reviews don't take the review seriously and most readers will simply look at it as exaggerated commentary expressing frustration.I personally disagree, it is my opinion that the majority of readers of reviews do take all such "exaggerated commentaries" to heart in making consumer decisions. But then again, our justices are not out in public having to operate in the market place, particularly the digital market place, to obtain clients -- at least in my opinion.

Going to court negatively impacts the children, Right?

Going to court negatively impacts the children, Right? I participate in a number of the online legal question and answer forums I often see that claim. But, it is always preceded by allegations that the other parent is not allowing visits, won't let the parent have time with the child, breaks his or her agreements to allow a visit, or demands that all schedules and agreement must be his or her way -- all without going to court. Let me be blunt. The only way parents going to court for assistance in establishing custody and parent-time orders impacts a child is if one, or both, of the parents put that child in the middle and involve the child in the case. If both parents are doing what is best for the child, then the child will not even know that there is a court case, because that case is between the adults. So, going to court to obtain orders concerning custody and parent-time should not directly impact the children. Any impact the child would be passive by way of having parents who love the child and allow the child to openly love each parent -- that can only be a positive impact. Plus, going to court will provide a set, consistent, and predictable schedule for parent-time. A schedule that the parents and the child can count on, and look forward to with happiness and anticipation. So, if the other parent is already causing problems by denying access, limiting parent-time, or playing games with dates and time, that parent is already putting the child in the middle and causing the child harm by way of depriving the child time with the other parent. In those situations, the one parent needs to be an adult and take the situation to court to obtain appropriate orders, including orders to keep the child out of the case. And, I bet that it will be the offending parent who then cries that going to court will "negatively impact the child"!

How to spot legal malpractice in your family law case

Mistakes in your divorce and other family law cases can significantly impact your divorce settlement, child custody orders and other issues involved in your case. That is why it is important to work with an experienced lawyer who will protect your rights and guide you through your case.

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