Fine Fiasco: what defamation suits could really mean in the Boeheim, Fine case

Lawrence Fisher, the attorney for Laurie Fine, listens to questions from reporters on Wednesday, May 15.

Lawrence Fisher, the attorney for Laurie Fine, listens to questions from reporters on Wednesday, May 15. Photo by Amanda Seef.

— “Since we, thank goodness, no longer engage in duels, the court of law is where people go when they think they have been injured over defamatory statements,” she said.

Once the suit is filed in federal court, which is expected in the coming weeks, the case will be assigned to a civil court. Once it makes it to court, they’ll face numerous hurdles, including proving there has been some kind of financial loss stemming from the written or spoken word. Whether that means losing a job or having to move, libel litigation is required to seek related damages.

Fine said the released tape by ESPN meant she has “endured the trauma of being smeared in public as a monster,” meaning she can no longer work, volunteer or have a social life in the Syracuse area.

“She can’t even go to Wegmans,” Fisher, her attorney, said.

The financial loss Fine speaks of will play into the case in court, Baron said.

“She will contend, as any complaintant will, that she has been injured and they are seeking a certain amount of money to compensate them for the amount of harm that has been done,” she said.

He-said, she-said

Kindergarteners call it name-calling. Those in the legal realm say it’s rhetorical hyperbole.

Courts say it’s not illegal.

“New York courts are pretty savvy about opinion, name-calling, rhetorical hyperbole,” Baron said. “They understand it to be pure opinion and the like. It’s not defamatory, it’s his opinion.”

It’s that feature that had the case against Boeheim dismissed originally — a state Supreme Court judge dismissed the case, saying Boeheim’s statements about Davis and Lang were of opinion, not fact, and protected from defamation claims.

"The content, tone, and purpose of Boeheim's statements would clearly signal to the reasonable reader that what was being read in the articles published in days after the initial ESPN report were likely to be an opinion — a biased, passionate, and defensive point of view of a basketball coach — rather than objective fact," DeJoseph wrote in his decision.

Vote on this Story by clicking on the Icon


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment