Moore v. Allen

NOTE: The information and commentary contained in this database entry are based on court filings and other informational sources that may contain unproven allegations made by the parties. The truthfulness and accuracy of such information is likely to be in dispute. Information contained in this entry is current as of the last event mentioned in the "Description" section below; additional proceedings might have taken place in this matter since this event.

Summary

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

06/26/2009

Status: 

Concluded

Location: 

Minnesota

Disposition: 

Directed Verdict/Judgment Notwithstanding Verdict (total)

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
Former University of Minnesota employee Jerry Moore filed a lawsuit in June 2009 against blogger John Hoff, online commenter Don Allen, and five anonymous commenters who Moore says published intentionally defamatory content in order to get him fired. The lawsuit was filed... read full description
Parties

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Donald W.R. Allen; John Hoff; John Does 1-5

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Location of Party: 

  • Minnesota

Location of Party: 

  • Minnesota

Legal Counsel: 

Donald Allen (pro se); Paul Godfread (for defendant Hoff)
Description

Former University of Minnesota employee Jerry Moore filed a lawsuit in June 2009 against blogger John Hoff, online commenter Don Allen, and five anonymous commenters who Moore says published intentionally defamatory content in order to get him fired. The lawsuit was filed in Minnesota state court, according to the blog Prattles.

On his blog, The Adventures of Johnny Northside, Hoff criticized the university's hiring of Moore and wrote about a lawsuit Moore was involved in. According to the Minnesota Independent, the complaint alleges that Hoff is "disentitled" to First Amendment protections because of his allegedly biased writing. The complaint also alleges Hoff allowed his blog's comments section to become a "defamation zone," according to Prattles.

According to the University of Minnesota Daily student newspaper, Moore’s employment with the university ended June 22, less than two months after he began work on a temporary basis at the school's Urban Research and Outreach Center.

Updates:

On March 7, 2011, a jury trial commenced.

On March 11, 2011, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Moore. The jury found that the statement, "Repeated and specific evidence in Hennepin County District Court shows that Jerry Moore was involved with a high-profile fraudulent mortgage at 1564 Hillside Ave. N.," was true. The jury nevertheless ruled in favor of Moore on his claims for intentional interference with an employment contract and intentional interference with prospective employment advantage. The jury awarded Moore $35,000 for the loss of benefits of the contract, and $25,000 for emotional distress or actual harm to reputation.

On March 23, 2011, the Minnesota Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists filed an amicus brief with respect to Hoff's post-trial motions. The brief stated that Minnesota courts, and both federal and state courts, have rejected attempts by plaintiffs to disguise defamation claims under other causes of action. The brief also argued that Minnesota courts have held that providing truthful information cannot provide the basis for an action for tortious interference with prospective economic advantage.

On April 1, 2011, Hoff filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law stating that the factual findings of the jury did not support a verdict in favor of Moore, and asking the court to enter judgment in favor of Hoff on all counts. In the alternative, Hoff sought a new trial. The memorandum in support of the motion stated that tortious interference claims could not be based on true statements, and that the First Amendment barred Hoff's claims for tortious interference. In the alternative, the motion stated that Hoff was entitled to a new trial because the jury was improperly swayed by emotion, the jury instructions contained a plain error, and the verdict was contrary to law and unsupported by evidence.

On May 25, 2011, Moore filed an opposition to Hoff's motion for judgment as a matter of law.

On May 26, 2011, Hoff filed a reply to Moore's opposition.

On August 22, 2011, the district court denied Hoff's motion for judgment as a matter of law in its entirety. The court held that the jury's findings on tortious interference were supported by the record developed during the jury trial, and that the jury's findings on the special verdict form could be reconciled if the jury had determined that Hoff's conduct taken as a whole (and not his true speech) constituted tortious interference. The district court also denied Hoff's motion for a new trial.

On October 26, 2011, Hoff filed a notice of appeal in the district court.

On January 30, 2012, Hoff filed a brief in support of his appeal in the Minnesota Court of Appeals, appealing the district court's denial of Hoff's motion for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial. The brief stated that Minnesota law does not permit liability for tortious interference to attach to true statements; that the record did not contain evidence to support the jury's findings; and that the trial court had failed to consider the requirements of the First Amendment in its order and memorandum denying Hoff's motion for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial.

On February 2, 2012, the Minnesota Pro Chapter, Society of Professional Journalists, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics & Law filed an amicus brief in support of Hoff.

On March 22, 2012, Moore filed his Appellee Brief, arguing that Hoff had failed to correctly appeal the instructions to the jury at the trial court.

On April 10, 2012, Hoff filed a Reply Brief.

On May 23, 2012, the parties argued before the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Update:

On August 20, 2012, the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Hoff, reversing the jury's verdict and remanding the case. The Court held that a true statement cannot support a claim for tortious interference with contract or prospective business relationships, and that when protected speech is inextricably intertwined with allegedly tortious conduct, there can be no liability as a matter of law.

Details

Content Type: 

  • Text

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Subject Area: 

  • Defamation
  • Third-Party Content
  • User Comments or Submissions
Court Information & Documents
CMLP Information (Private)

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

AVM- no images on state docket, nothing on WL as of 7/2/09

CMF - nothing on westlw yet; state site docket info below 7/22/09

http://pa.courts.state.mn.us/ - docket here; choose  Hennepin civil from drop down menu and search case number