Thursday, February 25, 2010

NC Appeals Court Upholds Sanctions for Bad Faith Libel Claim

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The North Carolina Court of Appeals  in  Mark Ward v. Jett Properties, LLC (Case No. 08-1508) has affirmed the imposition of sanctions against a plaintiff whose "bad faith" defamation claim against his landlord was dismissed.

The appellate court remanded the matter to the trial court for further findings of fact regarding the actual $2,000 penalty levied against the plaintiff.  The case concerns a letter written by the defendant responding to plaintiff's complaints against actions taken by neighboring tenants. The landlord's letter, a copy of which purportedly was sent to the homeowners association, allegedly threatened to evict the plaintiff, revoke his parking space, and report him to authorities for not obtaining state tags for his vehicle.

In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged the letter defamed him by accusing him of being a "nuisance," engaging in "continued harassment" and "pestering behavior," and "stalking" others in the neighborhood, among other claims. The plaintiff contended the statements in the letter constituted libel per se and harmed his reputation by exposing him to ridicule and contempt, but the appeals court disagreed.

The appellate court said the accusations of dishonesty and harassing behavior were rhetorical hyperbole that did not rise to the level of libel per se. The appellate court cited the plaintiff's history of filing four previously dismissed complaints against the defendant, as well as numerous lawsuits against others as a basis for supporting sanctions under Rule 11 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure for bringing the latest complaint in bad faith. 

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1 comment:

  1. The state motto of North Carolina, "Esse Quam Videri" translates as, "What You See Is What You Get."