Here’s a good article by the Hollywood Reporter about a lawsuit that was filed today against John Travolta and Martin Singer, which serves as a good illustration as to what dangers await those who file defamation lawsuits.
Robert Randolph, who wrote You’ll Never Spa In This Town Again is suing John Travolta and Martin Singer for Trade Libel, Intentional Interference With Prospective Economic Advantage, and Negligent Interference With Prospective Economic Advantage. Basically, Mr. Randolph is upset about statements Mr. Singer made on behalf of his client, John Travolta, about Mr. Randolph in a letter to Gawker.
But the face of the Complaint reveals a number of issues, which lead me to conclude that the case will either be voluntarily dismissed with prejudice or struck under the anti-SLAPP statute. First, it looks fairly clear that the letter is protected by the litigation privilege, which is an absolute bar to the Trade Libel claim. And since the remaining claims are derivative of that claim, the rest will fail as well.
But let’s assume for the sake of argument that the litigation privilege argument doesn’t carry the day, plaintiff still faces an uphill battle on the trade libel claim. As I’ve discussed here before, I see no advantage (ever) to bringing a trade libel claim as opposed to a regular libel claim. With trade libel, you need to show falsity, malice, and a specific showing of pecuniary loss, which is hard to do–especially if you get hit with an anti-SLAPP motion, which stays all discovery in the matter. I think it will be very difficult for plaintiff to establish malice at this point, if ever.
With respect to the intentional interference claim, these are difficult because plaintiffs must establish an actual economic relationship or a protected expectancy with a third person, not merely a hope of future transactions. Again if an anti-SLAPP motion is filed, plaintiff will need to produce competent and admissible evidence of specific existing relationships that were interfered with as a result of defendant’s statements. Tough to do normally.
With regard to the negligent interference claim, plaintiff must show that a duty existed between the parties. A duty may arise through statute, contract, or the general character of the activity. None of these seems to apply here given the allegations of the Complaint. Nor does there seem to be a special relationship between the parties such that a duty could arise here. So the claim doesn’t seem likely to survive.
The above is by no means an exhaustive analysis of the Complaint, but I do see some problems up ahead for the plaintiff. Problems that usually cannot be overcome. It’ likely this case will go away fairly soon.