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Defamation in the Horse Industry

Maddie, a struggling horse trainer, made up a nasty rumor that another trainer, John, abused his horses and administered performance enhancing drugs.  Maddie knew that none of this was true.  The rumor spread and John's customers slowly left him.  Many became Maddie's new customers.

Yes.

Defamation

Slander and libel fall into a category of law known as "defamation."  A defamatory communication is a false communication that tends to lower a person's reputation in the community or deter others from associating with that person.  Slander is generally understood to involve spoken words, and libel generally involves written words.

A lawsuit for defamation typically involves these elements: (1) a false or defamatory statement (2) concerning the “plaintiff” (the one injured by the defamatory communication) (3) that was actually seen or heard by third persons (4) there was no legally-recognized privilege under which the statement was made and (4) the statement at issue has a tendency to harm the defamed person's reputation.

Defenses

Defenses in defamation cases can include the following:

  • Truth.  In any defamation lawsuit, truth is widely recognized as an absolute defense.
  • Consent.  If the defamed person somehow consented to the complained-of communication, this might furnish the basis for a defense.
  • Privilege.  The law regarding privilege can be complex.  Privileges may apply, for example, to statements made in court by lawyers, judges, and witnesses that are reasonably relevant to the legal proceedings.  Privileges may also apply to statements made in legislative proceedings.  Sometimes, statements made without malice to appropriate law enforcement agencies can be privileged; this might be the case if Maddie had legitimately and in good faith notified the police that she personally witnessed John doing things that seemed to violate anti-cruelty laws.
  • First Amendment.  Constitutional rights of free speech will not necessarily protect those who defame others.  The law recognizes that limits exist.
  • “Public Figure.”  If the defamed person legally qualifies as a “public figure,” a misstatement made honestly and in good faith will typically not support a case.  Rather, the public figure must prove that the defaming party acted with "malice."  (“Malice” essentially means that the one making the statement knew it was false when it was made or that he or she had serious doubts about the truth of the statement.)  The classic “public figure” is a celebrity, athlete, politician, or another of that stature, but the definition can be much broader and more complex.
  • Opinion.  Be careful before assuming that your “opinions” are not defamatory.  In some states, statements of opinion, when they include facts that can later be evaluated and proven false, might actually support defamation.
  • Statute of Limitations.  State statutes, known as the statute of limitations, may severely limit the time in which a lawsuit can be filed.  A lawsuit filed too late, regardless of its merits, risks dismissal.

The law of defamation can be very complex.  When questions arise based on specific situations, contact a knowledgeable attorney.

Categories: Defamation

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is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. She has successfully tried equine cases before juries in four states. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, four books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and conferences in 29 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and insurance. For more information, please also visit www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.

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Contact Us - Julie Fershtman

"Julie Fershtman is considered by many to be the nation's leading expert on equine activity liability acts. Her 30-minute presentation for a recent educational webinar on equine activity liability acts for the American Horse Council is available for viewing. Please take a look, here's a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCROISSPMJs

Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Wins Fourth National Award

Julie Fershtman’s latest book, Equine Law and Horse Sense, won its fourth national award on May 31, 2021. It was selected to receive a "Finalist" Medal in the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. 

The 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards are presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group, which is the largest International awards program for indie authors and independent publishers. Here’s a link for the complete list of 2021 winners and finalists: https://www.indiebookawards.com/winners.php?year=2021 

Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Receives Third National Award

Julie Fershtman’s book, Equine Law & Horse Sense, published by the American Bar Association, has been selected to receive a 2020 NYC Big Book Award in the category of “Reference” books.

The NYC Big Book Awards draws nominations world-wide. This is the third award for Fershtman’s book since its publication last year. Here is a link for more information, and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2020winners

Information on the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/164105493X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

Equine Blog Ranked in Feedspot

Foster Swift's Equine Law Blog was ranked #8 in Feedspot.com's "15 Best Equine Law Blogs and Websites".

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

In 2022, Julie Fershtman is scheduled to be a speaker on equine liability at these conventions:

Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Receives Second National Award

Julie Fershtman’s book, Equine Law & Horse Sense, published by the American Bar Association, has been selected to receive a 2020 NYC Big Book Award in the category of “Reference” books.

The NYC Big Book Awards draws nominations world-wide. This is the third award for Fershtman’s book since its publication last year. Here is a link for more information, and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2020winners

Information on the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/164105493X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

Honors & Recognitions

Equine lawyer, Julie Fershtman, has received these prestigious equine industry awards from respected equine organizations:

"Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award" - American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Law Section Animal Law Committee

"Distinguished Service Award" - American Youth Horse Council

"Industry Service Award" - Michigan Equine Partnership

"Catalyst Award"- Michigan Horse Council

"Outstanding Achievement Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Partner in Safety Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Associate Service Award" - United Professional Horseman's Association

"National Partnership in Safety" Award" - Certified Horsemanship Association 

Some of our Equine Law Services

Handling breach of contract, fraud/ misrepresentation, commercial code, and other claims involving equine-related transactions including purchases/sales, leases, mare leases/foal transfers, and partnerships.

Litigating a wide variety of equine-related disputes in court or through alternative dispute resolution (arbitration, mediation, facilitation).

Defending equine/farm/equestrian industry professionals,  businesses, and associations in personal injury claims and lawsuits.

Drafting and negotiating contracts for boarding, training, sales, waivers/releases, leases, and numerous other equine-related transactions.

Representing and advising insurers on  coverage and policy language as well as litigation;

Advising equine industry clubs and associations regarding management, rules, bylaws, disputes, and regulations.

Representing some of the equine industry's top trainers, competitors, stables, and associations.

Counseling industry professionals, stable managers, and individual horse owners. 

THE NATION'S MOST SOUGHT-AFTER EQUINE LAW SPEAKER

Did you know Julie Fershtman has spoken at the American Horse Council Annual Meeting, Equine Affaire, US Hunter/Jumper Association Annual Meeting, Midwest Horse Fair, Equitana USA, US Dressage Federation Annual Meeting, North American Riding for the Handicapped (now PATH International) Annual Meeting, American Paint Horse Association Annual Meeting, US Pony Clubs, Inc.'s Annual Meeting, All-American Quarter Horse Congress, American Youth Horse Council Annual Meeting, American Riding Instructors Association Annual Meeting, CHA Annual Meeting, and numerous others? Consider signing her up for your convention. Contact Julie directly.

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