Commentary on the Vicki Iseman lawsuit
Vicki Iseman is the lobbyist who is suing the New York Times for $27 million dollars because it printed an article that purportedly implied she and John McCain were having an affair. David Sugerman wonders whether the Chamber of Commerce will speak out against this lawsuit:
Here's a report of a lawsuit by Washington D.C. lobbyist Vicki Iseman against the New York Times for $27 million. Ms. Iseman claims that Times reports gave the false impression that she was having an affair with Senator John McCain in 1999.
This is going to generate some interesting examples of double standards. The existence of tort litigation has long been a sore point with the Chamber of Commerce, conservative commentators, and self-designated experts. The Chamber's "lawsuit abuse" project is slick. Maybe they'll add this one to their "stories?" And will the court where this suit got filed join the "judicial hell hole" list?
The tort “reform” movement often complains that plaintiffs rely upon questionable scientific evidence to prove the cause and extent of their injuries. Yet I haven’t seen the Chamber of Commerce complain about a unique quirk of libel law:
"The common law of defamation is an oddity of tort law, for it allows recovery of purportedly compensatory damages without evidence of actual loss. Under the traditional rules pertaining to actions for libel, the existence of injury is presumed from the fact of publication. Juries may award substantial sums as compensation for supposed damage to reputation without any proof that such harm actually occurred."
In almost every other tort claim, a plaintiff has to prove three things: That the defendant had a legal duty to do or not to do something, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the breach of that duty caused injury to the plaintiff. The last requirement is what prevents lawsuits over “almosts,” such as “That drunk driver almost hit me, but he swerved at the last second,” or “I almost took that defective Digitek tablet but my pharmacist called me to tell me about the recall.”
I don’t support damage caps at all. But if we’re going to enact damage caps for anything, shouldn’t libel be included? Or should Vicki Iseman be entitled to more damages from her libel lawsuit than if she were left paralyzed by a negligent surgeon?