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Be Careful Who You Call A Bully

October 4, 2011

Ask your average high school student if he or she has ever encountered a bully and it seems likely that the answer is yes.  It seems that few pass through these years of primary education without having at least one bully push them from their path.  The emergence of litigation brought by the victims of bullying against the schools in which the bullying occurs illustrates a growing belief that the school is at least partly at fault for not protecting its students better.

It clearly is rational to want to protect those who are pushed around.  But a new lawsuit begs the other question.  Are accused bullies found guilty too quickly in the court of public opinion?

A recent verdict out of Virginia highlights this issue.  In Norfolk, Virginia, a jury has returned a $5 million verdict against the Virginia-Pilot newspaper for writing allegedly false accusations regarding a former high school student.  The newspaper accused this student of bullying a classmate.  It based these statements, in part, on the fact that this student had been convicted of misdemeanor assault and trespassing against the father of the child who was allegedly bullied.  Despite this potential link, the court found that the newspaper had reported false statements and, thus, was liable to the former student for damages to his reputation.

Whether $5 million is a realistic number, however, is an entirely different story.  As this legal battle continues, the former student’s payday, if any, probably won’t come for many months, if not years.  Attorneys for the newspaper are appealing the verdict, asking that it be set aside because it is contrary to law.  Whether the verdict is set aside entirely or reduced to a smaller amount is an unknown that most definitely troubles all parties to this lawsuit.

The ongoing battle over what amount is reasonable will, if nothing else, add pressure to both sides to settle on an agreed-upon final amount.  Settling now would reduce a lengthy appeals process.  It would also eliminate the uncertainties of what could happen to the verdict while up on appeal.  It wouldn’t be the first time that a large verdict handed down in a trial court became much smaller or even disappeared entirely under the gavel of the appellate court.

Despite the uncertainties of what will happen to this large verdict, this lawsuit still provides a couple teaching points.  First, we are left with the lingering knowledge that not all alleged bullies are in fact bullies.  Second, we are reminded of the importance to always remain cautious before letting accusations fly from our lips.

From Jury returns $5M libel award against Norfolk paper, acj.com (Atlanta Business News) (February 11, 2011)

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If your family member has died as a result of the negligent or intentional acts or omissions of a person or business, you may want to consider filing a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death lawyer in Geauga County Ohio can help you assess how best...
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Wrongful death lawsuits are filed when a person's negligence causes another person to die. If your family has suffered such a loss, it may help to discuss what happened with a Beachwood Ohio wrongful death attorney.
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Dangerous products that cause you injury can result in a lawsuit to recover money for the damages incurred. Talk to a Cleveland Ohio products liability attorney to determine what to do.
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If you have suffered a trip and fall incident at a store, you may be able to sue that store for the damages you suffered. Because these types of cases are difficult, it is important to hire a Cleveland Ohio trip and fall attorney to improve your chances...
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When the negligent of a business causes the death of your family member, you may want to talk to a Beachwood Ohio wrongful death attorney to learn what your legal remedies can be if you choose to file a lawsuit.

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PDC Building
3659 Green Road, Suite 325
Beachwood, Ohio 44122
Phone: (440) 477-6075
Fax: (216) 292-4615
Fax: (440) 756-1334
swj@swjlawoffice.com
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