Question: Does This Seem Libelous?

According to newly-invested Judge Bloom (congratulations!!), it just might:
What in Tarnation is a Surrogate Dibble, No way this can be a real human beings name, low class redneck pig excrement, redneck asshole, PATHETIC, LOWCLASS, INBRED REDNECK SCUMBAG, venom-spewing, mud-sucking, LOW-CLASS REDNECK, REDNECK LOSERS, SON OF A BITCH, SCUMBAG DRIBBLE, Now do us all a big favor and go play some Russian Roulette with SIX rounds in the chamber
WHAT IN TARNATION IS A SURROGATE DIBBLE, This low-class, inbred, half-witted, redneck, idiot, horse’s ass, bully, CHEAPSKATE AND ASSHOLE, venom-spewing, mud-sucking clown, NON-CUSTOMER, pig-farmer, miserable redneck loser, Surrogate Dibble yo-yo, son of a bitch, SCUMBAG DRIBBLE
Ok, purely as a wordsmith -- this has a certain rhythm. 

But the judge says it could have something more:
Defendants contend that Avrich’s offending statements amount to nothing more than rhetorical name-calling or expressions of opinion which cannot be construed as statements of fact. Therefore, they argue, the statements cannot constitute actionable defamation. Defendant’s comments stem from his apparently strongly-held convictions about Plaintiff’s name. This may turn out to be a case about literal name calling. But, Defendant’s publications also contain statements about Plaintiff’s intelligence, class, ancestry and business-relevant qualities. As examples of the latter, Defendant allegedly stated that Plaintiff might not be a real person, is a cheapskate, a “non-customer,” and lacks any credibility. Compl. ¶ 10.

Construing the allegations in the Complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Court cannot conclude at this stage that Defendant’s comments are mere rhetoric and cannot constitute defamatory publications. See, e.g., Presley v. Graham, 936 F. Supp. 2d 1316, 1325-26 (M.D. Ala. 2013) (finding, at pleading stage, that statement that plaintiff was “a supervisor’s nightmare,” even if opinion, could be interpreted by a reasonable reader as a fact-based summation). In our age of anonymous internet trolls and the often-uninformed echo-chamber of the blogosphere, maybe no reasonable reader would take Defendant’s statements as asserting facts rather than just one more outspewing of thoughtless rhetoric. But the Court is not willing to say, as a matter of law, that Defendant’s insults are incapable of being interpreted as false facts.  Visitors of may understand Defendant to be stating that Plaintiff is in fact inbred, or not a real person, or, at the very least, someone you wouldn’t want to do business with. The Complaint fairly and plausibly alleges as much. Whether it is true requires the Court to consider a factual context for the parties to address and develop in discovery. Plaintiff’s allegations of defamation will survive Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss.
Anonymous internet trolls and thoughtless rhetoric -- where have we heard that before?


  1. Looks like my ex wife's initial pleading when she sued me for divorce.

  2. EVERYONE reads The Blog!


    NB - STL....your comments are the best.

  3. Is it defamation if I call out an anonymous dude who mostly writes nonsense?

    Just asking.

  4. "just one more outspewing of thoughtless rhetoric" makes a nice tagline.

  5. I eat defamation for lunch and I burp up flowers.

  6. Those law clerks can write.

  7. She called the defendant uninformed and an internet troll (indirectly), so while he won the motion to dismiss he got a bloody nose.

  8. correction to previous: "lost" the motion

  9. Judge Bloom's amount-in-controversy analysis seems misguided. First, the order of her order is backwards. She concludes that the plaintiff's complaint didn't adequately allege subject-matter jurisdiction, but, before that, she rules that the complaint does state a claim for defamation. But if she doesn't have jurisdiction, then she never should have ruled that the complaint states a claim, because if she's without jurisdiction, then, as a federal court, she was without power to decide whether the complaint states a claim. Second, most of the decisions she's relying on appear to be removal decisions. Hence the heavy emphasis on words like "burden" and "evidence" and lack of words like "allege." I'd be really curious to see, now, whether the plaintiff can actually allege sufficient allegations showing that the AIC requirement has been satisfied.


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