Defamation lawsuit against bloggers writing about Deepwater Horizon dismissed

By Shanice Harris | Mar 12, 2017

BOSTON — A lawsuit filed against bloggers Cherri Foytlin and Karen Savage for their 2013 story on the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster has been dismissed.

According to a report by Courthouse News Service, Foytlin and Savage wrote an article in the Huffington Post’s Green Blog in October 2013 at a time when oil company BP Global was in federal court fighting to limit liability for the oil spill. The article by Foytlin and Savage discussed the issue and put some blame on one of BP’s consultants.

Cardno ChemRisk claimed the writers reported damaging information in their article. The bloggers asked for dismissal of the lawsuit because of the Massachusetts anti-SLAAP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) law.

“In some states like Louisiana and Massachusetts, there are statues that protect certain kinds of free speech,” John Reichman, attorney for the defendants, told the Louisiana Record. “There’s a history of developers and others suing people who have opposed their projects [for example]. What the [statute] is designed to do is to protect people who will speak out about projects or other important public issues so that if they’re sued for defamation, the statute allows for an early determination whether there is a reasonable basis for what they’ve said or written.”

The Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts ruled that he writers were doing protected activity of petitioning and voicing the concerns of many.

“They were speaking out about an issue of public concern and interest, and that they had a reasonable basis for the statements that they were making,” Reichman said. “Given those two things, they came within the protection of the statute.”

The court ruled that the facts that Foytlin and Savage presented in their article had reasonable basis, which is not illegal to do.

This case is considered by many as a win for journalists, bloggers and other media outlets. In states that have anti-SLAPP law protection, writers are free to discuss and inform the public on important issues that affect their lives, without worrying about corporations trying to silence their voices.

“Prior to this case, the courts of Massachusetts had read the statute narrowly with respect to who the statutes were going to protect,” Reichman said. “This case is important because it made it clear that it protects persons like [Foytlin] and [Savage] who are advocating a particular position either in articles, blogs, or newspaper articles alike.”

Reichman had represented a journalist several years prior to this case, in New York, involving an anti-SLAPP lawsuit. His client had spoken out about a developer’s plans in the city and was sued for defamation. Reichman ultimately won that case, as well.

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