An interior designer has been sued for some offensive remarks she made awhile ago. Although she contends she didn’t know her remarks were on the record, the contractor who is suing her reported that it shouldn’t matter whether you are or are not on the record. A public figure has no reasonable expectation of privacy.
A few days ago, the interior designer, name being withheld, thought she was going to work on what seemed to be a regular day. When she arrived at the office, she went through her normal routine. She made herself a cup of coffee and read her emails. It started out just like any other day, but that was about it.
There was a message in her inbox she must have missed the day before. It was a notification that she was scheduled for an interview. That interview was about to take place. Not long after she read her email, a knock came on the door.
Journalist Mary Huddington of the Huddington Gazette thought it would be great to get some answers about the future of the fireplace. When they sat down in her office, she thought this interview should be easy enough. She has written plenty of articles explaining the problems with the traditional wood burning fireplace and why it doesn’t quite fit with the popular green initiatives we have adopted around the world.
The interview went nicely and then Mary started packing her things. That’s when Mary pulled a Journalist 101 trick the interior designer didn’t see coming. Mary made the remark, “All this green fireplace talk, it’s not like the fireplace is all that bad.”
The reply that came was off the cuff and she thought those words would never make the article. But, they did. A few days later, she was served. She found herself being sued by a contractor who builds fireplaces. I guess he didn’t like what the interior designer had to say about the future of the fireplace after all.
Standing in front of the honorable Judge Masters, the interior designer heard why she was being sued. The contractor Jerry Shiver made claims that the interior designer’s remarks were offensive and that they were a detriment to his business. Her only defense was that her remarks were not malicious in any way, which is one requirement of a defamation suit. Another requirement of a defamation suit is whether or not her remarks had caused any damage.
When being questioned, Mr. Shiver contended that the interior designer had remarked irresponsibly about the future of the fireplace and her words were hurtful to the fireplace industry all around. Shiver further inserted that he had suffered a loss of business since the article hit the Gazette and that the interior designer remarked in such a way that was so offensive it was unconscionable.
She was then asked to defend her statement, “The traditional wood burning fireplace should never be allowed in anyone’s home. It damages the environment. It’s a risk to the home. It has really never been a good idea to have a wood burning fireplace in the home and we should have been looking for alternatives a long time ago.”
She asserted that she meant every word of what she said. She added that she did not intend that those words would be included in the article. She assumed the interview was over and she was simply responding to Mary’s remark. But if she was going to be paraded into a court of law to defend what she had to say, she said that her remarks are true and should be heeded. She further added that she is glad her words were included so that they could be read by everyone who reads the Gazette, “The truth needs to get out there. I can’t help it that contractors are losing business because no one wants them to build another fireplace. Maybe they need to find other things to build.”
The courtroom was very quiet for about a minute. Shiver was speechless. His worst nightmare was staring him in the face from across the room. But at the end of the day, Masters just could not bring himself to side with the complainant. The interior designer was right and he made it very clear that even though her remarks had been damaging to Shiver’s business, they were not malicious. In fact, they had all the elements of good intentions.
It’s a very real possibility that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. But if you have strong convictions, you need to stick by your guns and don’t let anyone bully you into being silent about them. At the end of the day, you either say what you feel or you forfeit your right to that freedom.