Don’t Mess With Overlawyered

They don’t call him Walloping Wally Olson for nothing, you know.  Via Law.com :

Aviation lawyer and seasoned pilot Arthur Alan Wolk knows quite a bit about the stratosphere and the troposphere, but he may have learned something new this week about the blogosphere when a federal judge tossed out his libel suit against the bloggers at Overlawyered.com.

As U.S. District Judge Mary A. McLaughlin sees it, a blog is legally the same as any other “mass media,” meaning that any libel lawsuit filed against a blog in Pennsylvania must make its way to court within one year.

According to Wolk, as repeated in Judge McLaughlin’s decision, he’s the “most prominent aviation lawyer in the country.”  That doesn’t say much for aviation lawyers.  It seems that Ted Frank, Walter Olson’s evil twin, posted a story about a case of Wolk’s on April 8, 2007.  Wolk happened to find out about the post sometime in April, 2009.  He became very angry.  Grrrr.

The problem is that the statute of limitations was one year.  Memo to Wolk:  Read Overlawyered daily.  I do.

Wolk tried to get around the statute via the Discovery Rule, that the time doesn’t accrue until the alleged defamation is discovered.  No dice, Judge McLaughlin ruled.

The court is not aware of any case in which the discovery rule has been applied to postpone the accrual of a cause of action based upon the publication of a defamatory statement contained in a book or newspaper or other mass medium.

That’s right.  We a mass medium. 

“Not all cases are worthy of the discovery rule. Worthy cases are those pertaining to hard-to-discern injuries,” McLaughlin wrote.

“If the rule is intended for hard-to-discern injuries, it would be at odds with a cause of action based upon a defamatory statement disseminated through a mass medium, like a website, and received by tens of thousands of readers,” McLaughlin wrote.

But Wolk’s lawyer, Paul Rosen, did not take the loss gracefully.

“Unlike mass media print defamation claims, where the publication is pervasive for a short time, but soon becomes yesterday’s news, the Internet is a different animal,” Rosen said.

“In cases such as Mr. Wolk’s, involving a blog that is relatively obscure, but which published a false statement that may appear on any Google type search, the discovery rule is of particular importance,” Rosen said.

In the scheme of the blawgosphere, Overlawyered is anything but “relatively obscure.”  Indeed, it’s not only been around for a long time, extremely well known and well-regarded, but it’s a favorite read of most lawyers with internet access and half a brain.

And lest anyone be overly concerned, chances are slim that this loss on statute of limitations grounds does Wolk any harm, as his likelihood of prevailing on the merits was even slimmer.

Congratulations to Walter, Ted and all the elves in the backroom at Overlawyered.

H/T The vacationing Turk, who just can’t let go of his iPhone.

5 thoughts on “Don’t Mess With Overlawyered

  1. PointOfLaw Forum

    Arthur Alan Wolk v. Olson (E. D. Pa. Aug. 2, 2010)

    Watch what you say about lawyers dept.: A Philadelphia attorney didn’t like what a blogger wrote about the attorney’s litigation record in a post about the attorney’s unsuccessful libel lawsuit, so he sued the blogger. And the blogger’s innocent co-bloggers….

  2. Ron Coleman

    I know some of those elves. Believe me, the level of self-beclownment in the run-up to this case matches the preposterousness of the claim against our boys…

    What a bunch a’ maroons.

  3. Turk

    The part about being “relatively obscure” is a gem.

    I wonder how much damage was done to the client by bringing a losing suit, as opposed to the original trifle he complained about.

    They should make the Streisand Effect a required continuing education class.

    –ET
    (from his iBeach)

  4. Ernie Menard

    The discovery rule as it applies to ostensibly libelous blogs has concerned me for quite some time; about 5 years this month to be more precise.

    Ah, but what to do with this freedom? Sorry to be cryptic.

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