RJA obtains favorable settlement on behalf of a husband and wife in defamation and emotional distress claims against former Wareham Board of Selectmen members
At a public meeting of the Wareham Board of Selectmen, a member of the Board publicly accused a member of the Town’s Police Department of acting with racist motivations in the discharge of his official duties. That same Board member followed up the accusations with a subsequent press interview in which he accused the officer of lying in an official report. At a later meeting of the Board of Selectmen, another member of the Board accused the officer of being unfaithful to his wife.
RJA represented the officer and his wife in a lawsuit against the Board members for defamation and emotional distress damages. One of the Board members twice tried to have the case against him dismissed, arguing that his comments were protected free speech. RJA successfully argued in each instance that the Board member was not shielded by the First Amendment and that the case should proceed to trial. Prior to trial, the parties settled for a significant five figure amount.
RJA was proud to represent the officer and his wife, not only to assist in bringing vindication to them for the harm done as a result of the Board members’ comments, but also to establish firmly that the First Amendment does not grant anyone, including a public official, free license to utter defamatory statements without regard to their consequences and without fear of liability. Through this case, RJA was able to confirm that individuals can be held responsible for their false statements.
RESULT: A favorable and significant settlement in favor of RJA’s client.
RJA Counsel: Andrew J. Gambaccini