It's Not Nice To Say Bad Things About People On The Internet
Kono v. Meeker, no. 06-1554 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 12, 2007)
I know, I know, you're thinking "What in heaven's name does this have to do with an aviation blog?!" and you're right. But this is interesting. And, parenthetically it has to do with chisels and why some people are called chiselers.
Kono is an Iowa resident and the Meekers are California antiques dealers. Kono and the Meekers agreed that Kono would trade a surveying transit for seven chisels, presumably of an antique nature.
Kono phoned Meeker to ask whether the transit had proved satisfactory, and that's where the stories diverge. Meeker says he was dissatisfied with the transit, and Kono said Meeker said it was fine. Meeker took it on himself to ship the transit back to Kono, who declined delivery because of the condition of the package.
Kono called Meeker 'arrogant and inconsiderate', and Meeker for his part responded with a series of profane and threatening emails and hostile phone calls.
Meeker then posted a "Dana Kono Watch Page" on his website that called Kono an admitted liar and a thief, and a "slimy weasel".
Kono sued for defamation, false light, invasion of privacy and emotional distress. Meeker counterclaimed for fraudulent misrepresentation. The jury entered a verdict in favor of Kono in the amount of $500,000 on all claims. Meeker appealed.
Meeker alleges that his statements on the website were protected speech, hyperbole, that Kono's attorney calling Meeker's actions a "jihad" was improper, and so on and so forth.
The court disregarded these arguments since they hadn't been advanced at trial.
The court of appeals found that the substance of Meeker's watch page explicitly accused Kono of being a disreputable person who deals while under the influence of alcohol and a liar and thief, and that the jury could have reasonably concluded that this was libel. On the issue of compensatory damages, Kono produced evidence that his reputation had been damaged. The court of appeals further affirmed the award of punitive damages, stating that it reflected the offensive conduct and damage caused by the Meekers.