A recent Virginia case and one being filed in New York illustrate the consequences of making public comments about individuals related to a sensitive issue. In the Virginia case a Commonwealth’s Attorney (CA) said that criminal charges against three current and one ex-supervisor were “winnable” and he “could have made them stick.” The CA made those comments after the criminal charges against the current and ex-supervisor were dropped. The four plaintiff’s cumulatively sued the CA for $5.4 million dollars. As reported by the Daily Press each of the plaintiff’s got a $250,000 judgment against the CA. Apparently none of the judgments are enforceable against the CA. So the fight is with the CA’s homeowner’s carrier to see if it’s liable for the judgments.
The New York case relates to allegations against former Syracuse basketball assistant Bernie Fine. Apparently two former Syracuse ball boys alleged they were molested by Fine. In response to the allegations head coach Jim Boeheim, as reported on SI.com, quoted an ESPN interview in which Boeheim said, “It is a bunch of a thousand lies that [ ] has told.” Boeheim is also quoted as saying the allegations were about trying to get money. In response to Boeheim’s comments the former ball boys filed a defamation suit against Boeheim and Syracuse University.
What’s to learn from these suits? One of questions to ask is how you would respond in similar circumstances? Both of these cases involve highly charged emotions and issues. Under these circumstances it may be very difficult not to want to express your opinion particularly if you feel justified in doing so. However, in this day and age one thing we have to remember is what you said five minutes ago could be on You Tube or Facebook in a matter of minutes. Individuals and businesses need to understand the times we live in; they need to exercise restraint and if they feel they have to express themselves they should do so in an environment that affords them protection as privately with an attorney, where the attorney client privilege would prevent even the most inflammatory comments from ever becoming public.
End Note: The phrase Lose Lips Might Sink Ships and Careless Talk Costs Lives were coined during WWI as part of the US war department’s efforts to limit giving useful information to the enemy.