Libel Case Based on Allegations that Plaintiff Had Made Specific Racist Statements Can Go Forward

Start at Gogol v. WhiteDeirdre hill, L.A. Superior Court judge in December, ruled that:

Plaintiff claims that he’s a comic book writer who is located in San Francisco. Defendant [Frank Gogol]She is also a comic-book writer. A series of tweets or posts by defendant on August 4, 2021 falsely described an interaction that plaintiff had four years prior. The tweets of defendant claim plaintiff called plaintiff a racist slur at 2018 New York Comic Con Barcon. That plaintiff stated, “I don’t know why people find black women attractive.”That plaintiff made a joke about black people’s looks; the plaintiff was also openly racist. The tweets made by the defendant are false statements of fact. Plaintiff was hurt by the statements defamatory published by defendant.

Further, plaintiff claims that the comic-book industry is small and tightly knit. Authors’ reputation is crucial. Plaintiff is therefore not well-known and not famous despite his achievements as a comics writer.

Plaintiff further alleges that, on October 6, 2017, plaintiff went to Mulligan’s Pub in NY City and met a former classmate. His classmate and plaintiff were joined later that night by their classmate’s friend. This friend arrived along with many others, including defendant. After introducing himself to the defendant, plaintiff spoke with his classmate during the rest of their time at the pub. Before that night, Plaintiff had never spoken with defendant. The group agreed after about 30 minutes to move to Azyz. They walked up to Azyz, where they stayed until the restaurant closed at 2:00 AM. The group split up at that time. At no point during the night, other than to introduce himself, did plaintiff speak to defendant….

Plaintiff claims that the defendant posted these tweets on August 4, 2021:

“Ive [sic]This story has been a backlash nightmare for years. Here we are: Frank Gogol @frankgogol called my 2018 NYCC Barcon a racist slur.    The tea was served: He met me through a mutual friend. He was a snob and started talking to me about me as soon as I arrived. I asked my friend what his deal is, told the two women in my party what has happening….We go to dinner after meeting up. Gogol becomes loud and drunk, so he centers himself that we all get quiet. He began complimenting my two friends on how hot they are… My friend says that she thinks I’m hot……. Gogol says that black women look attractive. He then goes on to tell a joke about black men’s looks. The joke is too funny for me. I shoot up from my chair, read [sic] to curse this man out… but think better of it. Step outside. Enraged, I walk along the sidewalk. This is what I want to do.           The majority of the people in this industry are white. The comics industry is six-degrees. The arrogance of Gogol’s openly racist and entitled remarks needs to be checked. My friend came out to remind me that he was a huge deal and that it would end my career. She listened and I left.

Plaintiff alleges that contrary to the “defamatory statements,” he did not use or call defendant by a racial slur at the 2018 NYCC or at any other time; he did not say “I don’t know why people think black women are attractive”; plaintiff did not tell a “joke” about how black people look; and he did not engage in any behavior that could arguably be described as racist….

“[B]For purposes of defamation liability, the courts make a distinction between statements of facts and opinions because they must be proven false. … “‘An opinion is not actionable if it discloses all the statements of fact on which the opinion is based and those statements are true.

A decision is considered actionable when it details all statements of facts that are used to support the opinion and they are accurate. [but the cited case says ‘false,’ and in context it appears that this judge meant ‘false’ as well, and inadvertently wrote ‘true’ -EV].'” Ruiz v. Harbor View Community Assn. (Cal. App. 2005).

The court holds that these allegations can be proven true because plaintiff’s statements that defendant believes plaintiff is openly racist are admissible.

As to whether plaintiff is a public figure, … the allegations on their face are sufficient that plaintiff does not fall into either of these two categories. Further, “‘[s]Such a determination [of public figure status]This is often an extremely close question that can only be answered by looking at the whole of each controversy’s circumstances. Therefore, it would not be appropriate to denurrer [i.e., a pre-discovery motion to dismiss].

Also, the court allowed punitive damages claims forward “because plaintiff pled defendant fabricated lies regarding him willfully and deliberately.” Here is the tentative ruling. It was adopted.[ed]As the court’s order.” And the ruling seems correct to me, though of course none of this resolves who is actually telling the truth here.