Tag Archives | Moore v. Hoff

$60,000 Verdict for Blogging the Truth About A Person Intending to Get Him Fired — Reversed

I’ve blogged before about Moore v. Hoff, a Minnesota case in which a jury ordered a blogger (John Hoff, who blogs as Johnny Northside) to pay $60,000 to a university official because the blogger blogged the truth about the official, intending to get him fired. Today, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the verdict, in Moore v. Hoff (Minn. Ct. App. Aug. 20, 2012):

Because truth is an absolute defense to a claim for defamation, truth should also be a defense to a claim for tortious interference with a contract arising out of an allegedly defamatory statement. See also Restatement (Second) of Torts § 772 cmt. b (“There is of course no liability for interference with a contract … on the part of one who merely gives truthful information to another.”).

Moore argues that Hoff is not shielded from tort liability simply because Moore could not prove the falsity of Hoff’s statement. Rather, Moore urges us to rely instead on Hoff’s motivation for making the allegedly defamatory statements. Moore asserts that because Hoff had an ulterior motive of getting Moore fired, he can be liable for the tortious-interference claims. We disagree.

When a person conveys unflattering and possibly damaging information to another person’s employer, it is unlikely that the motivation for conveying that information is borne out of affection. It is much more likely that the intent is for the employer to take responsive action — up to and including termination — based on the content of that information. Regardless of the motivation of the messenger, if the information conveyed is true, it is not appropriate for liability to attach. See Restatement (Second) of Torts § 772 cmt. b. (noting that conveying truthful information is not “improper” interference “even though the facts are marshaled in such a way

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$60,000 Damages for Blogging the Truth About Someone, Intending to Get the Person Fired

Last year, I blogged about Moore v. Hoff, a Minnesota case in which a jury ordered a blogger to pay $60,000 to a university official because the blogger blogged the truth about the official, intending to get him fired. I am told that Monday morning, the Minnesota Court of Appeals will hand down a decision in the appeal of the verdict; I hope that it will reverse.

Here’s an excerpt from the trial court opinion sustaining the verdict:

Plaintiff Jerry L. Moore[ brought suit] for defamation, interference with contractual relationships, and interference with prospective advantage against Defendant John Hoff. A jury trial was held … [and] the jury … returned a verdict in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff’s defamation claim, and in favor of Plaintiff on the remaining two claims. Specifically, the jury found Defendant intentionally interfered with Plaintiff’s employment contract and interfered with Plaintiffs prospective employment advantage…. Defendant filed a notice of motion and motion for judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial….

When considering a motion for judgment as a matter of law, the district court must take into account all of the evidence in the case, view that evidence in a light most favorable to the jury verdict, and not weigh the evidence or judge the credibility of the witnesses…. [J]udgment as a matter of law under Rule 50 may only be granted “when a jury verdict has no reasonable support in fact or is contrary to law.” …

Plaintiff’s Complaint alleged that Defendant intentionally interfered with his contractual rights by actively working to get Plaintiff fired from his position at the University of Minnesota by, among other things, contacting individuals at the University of Minnesota, making disparaging remarks about Plaintiff, and encouraging others to do the same. To establish a claim

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$60,000 Damages for Blogging the Truth About Someone, Intending to Get the Person Fired

I blogged about the Johnny Northside case (Moore v. Hoff) when the verdict came down, but there’s now a moderately detailed trial court opinion refusing to set the verdict aside. Here’s an excerpt from a Minneapolis Star-Tribune article about this latest development:

The jury ruled last March that [John] Hoff’s scathing blog post amounted to actively interfering with [Jerry] Moore’s job at the U, even though Hoff’s statements were true when he linked Moore to high-profile mortgage fraud.

The jury awarded Moore $35,000 for lost wages and $25,000 for emotional distress….

Moore, former executive director of the Jordan Area Community Council, was hired in early 2009 at the U’s Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center to study mortgage foreclosures.

When Hoff found out about the hire, he wrote a post accusing Moore of being involved in a “high-profile fraudulent mortgage” that was one of several resulting in a 16-year prison sentence for former real estate agent Larry Maxwell. Moore was not charged in that case.

Hoff took partial credit for Moore’s firing in a later blog post, to which Moore responded with his suit.

As I wrote in March, people are constitutionally entitled to speak the truth about others, even with the goal of trying to get them fired. (The tort actually requires either knowledge that such a result is practically certain or a purpose of producing such a result, but I take it that here the allegation is that Hoff wanted Moore to get fired.) The First Amendment constrains the interference with business relations tort, just as it constrains the infliction of emotional distress and other torts. See NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. (1982); Blatty v. New York Times Co. (Cal. 1986) (speech constitutionally protected against a libel claim is also protected against an interference with business [...]

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$60,000 Damages for Blogging the Truth About Someone, Intending to Get The Person Fired

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:

Controversial north Minneapolis blogger John Hoff must pay $60,000 in damages to a former Jordan Area Community Council executive director Jerry Moore, a jury in the civil case concluded Friday.

The Hennepin County District Court jury found that an “Adventures of Johnny Northside” blog post in June 2009 resulted in Moore’s firing from the University of Minnesota….

The jury ruled that although Hoff’s post … was true, he intentionally interfered with Moore’ employment contract with the University of Minnesota Urban Outreach and Outreach/Engagement Center….

Moore’s lawsuit [stated] that after he was fired from the Jordan Area Community Council in January 2009, he was hired at the university center. When Hoff found out, he wrote a post lambasting Moore and accusing him of involvement in a “high-profile fraudulent mortgage,” one of several that resulted in a 16-year prison sentence for former real estate agent Larry Maxwell. Moore was not charged in the Maxwell case. Moore was fired the day after the blog post.

If the news story is accurate, and isn’t omitting some key facts, the result seems unconstitutional and quite wrong. Even if Hoff was trying to get Moore fired, people are constitutionally entitled to speak the truth about others, even with such a goal. (The tort actually requires either knowledge that such a result is practically certain or a purpose of producing such a result, but I take it that here the allegation is that Hoff wanted Moore to get fired.) The First Amendment constrains the interference with business relations tort, just as it constrains the infliction of emotional distress and other torts. See NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. (1982); Blatty v. New York Times Co. (Cal. 1986) (speech constitutionally protected against a libel claim is also protected against an interference with business [...]

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