Legal Blogger Faces $50M Defamation Claim

As a company who hosts a blog that attempts regular updates, we are mindful of the risks in quickly summarizing and commenting on news events and lawsuits. When a Chicago attorney saw a post about him on Above the Law he sued for $50M. The legal news blog is now facing a massive legal bill and the possibly of a bankrupting verdict or settlement. In addition to the defamation claim it was alleged the blog violated the law by committing conspiracy, intrusion upon seclusion, emotional distress, and cyber stalking

Meanith Huon was accused and later acquitted of abducting a woman who responded to a Craigslist modeling advertisement.  Above the Law first posted an article calling him “Lawyer of the Day” and later a second title “Rape Potpourri”, which stated that the woman should have googled Huon before meeting to find out he was an alleged rapist. However, their proof of an internet trail of alleged attacks were different articles about the same single incident.

After the first lawsuit Gawker published an article titled  “Acquitted Rapist Sues Blogger for Calling Him Serial Rapist” as was promptly added as a defendant to the original libel complaint. After a hearing this month the judge dismissed the allegations against Gawker but allowed several to proceed against Above the Law.

Many firms incorrectly assume a claim of this type will be covered under their errors and omissions policy. Unless the person alleging defamation was a client it’s highly unlikely the professional liability insurer will pick up coverage. However, a standard general liability insurance policy (running $400-500 a year depending on your state) contains a clause for advertising injury, which includes coverage for slander, invasion of privacy, libel, copyright infringements and misappropriation of others advertising ideas in a firm’s advertisements.

Many firms clearly label their blog posts as attorney advertising material, which should secure coverage for posts under a general liability policy if an allegation is made. If a firm does not do so we recommend negotiating broader coverage under a firms legal malpractice policy to explicitly include the publishing of blog and written publications. Some firms with a controversial or large blogging platform may want to consider a stand along media policy.

Contact us today to discuss crafting specific E&O terms to your professional liability exposure. Our brokers have the experience as former underwriters to negotiate on your organization’s behalf.