What Is Defamation?

defamation has been involved in multiple defamation lawsuits. Many of these cases arise because a third-party Amazon seller has sold an item, such as a book, through the Amazon platform, and that item defamed another party. The party who believes their rights were violated will often file suit against not just the seller, but as well because Amazon was the platform that allowed this content to be available. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, defamation means:

  1. Malicious or groundless harm to the reputation or good name of another by the making of a false statement to a third person. If the alleged defamation involves a matter of public concern, the plaintiff is constitutionally required to prove both the statement’s falsity and the defendant’s fault.
  2. A false written or oral statement that damages another’s reputation.

defamation lawyerIf a buyer finds content being sold on Amazon that is defamatory, they may go after Amazon. In Berkery v. Estate of Lyle Stuart1, a book was published and sold on the Amazon website that allegedly defamed the plaintiff. Amazon successfully argued that there was no evidence that the website intentionally published the book with knowledge of the defamation and the court ordered summary judgment in favor of Amazon.
There have also been claims of defamation that occurred within the comment section of
Amazon’s website that allows customers to write reviews. When a seller finds themselves unhappy with the reviews, they contact Amazon. Amazon has the discretion whether to remove the comments or not. When Amazon does not remove the comments, some sellers have filed suit, claiming defamation. In Hammer v. Amazon2, Hammer had received negative reviews and requested that Amazon take action. The court granted Amazon’s motion for permanent injunction because the reviews were mere opinions, not actual defamation. Amazon found itself in a similar situation in Schneider v. Amazon3, but instead argued that the Communications Decency Act (CDA) barred the plaintiff from recovery. Similarly, in Rosner v. Amazon4, Amazon did not remove a negative comment and the court dismissed the complaint finding the plaintiff failed to state a cause of action.

However, Amazon has also been caught up in litigation due to employees alleging
defamation. In Dobias-Davis v. Amazon5, Dobias filed suit-alleging defamation in addition to gender and age violation of the ADEA. Amazon moved to dismiss the claims, but the court found that there needed to be more factual development to decide whether the case should be dismissed.

  1. Berkery v. Estate of Stuart, 412 N.J. Super. 76, 988 A.2d 1201 (Super. Ct. App. Div. 2010).
  2. Hammer v., 392 F. Supp. 2d 423 (E.D.N.Y. 2005).
  3. Schneider v., Inc., 108 Wash. App. 454, 31 P.3d 37 (2001).
  4. Rosner v., 2015 NY Slip Op 07638, 132 A.D.3d 835, 18 N.Y.S.3d 155 (App. Div.).
  5. Dobias-Davis v., LLC, Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-00393-JAG, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3396 (E.D. Va. Jan. 11, 2016).
  • Berkery v. Estate of Stuart, 412 N.J. Super. 76, 988 A.2d 1201 (Super. Ct. App. Div. 2010).

This is a case where plaintiff claimed that defendants deliberately acted with malice against him. The court held there is no clear evidence the defendants acted with malice because a reasonable juror would not be able to say the defendants acted with malice against the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s criminal records were open to the public so he qualifies as a limited-purpose public figure. The defendant did not intentionally publish information about the plaintiff with knowledge of it being false or disregard if the published information was true or false. The evidence that the plaintiff has provided did not show any proof the defendants acted knowing the information published was false.

  • Dobias-Davis v., LLC, Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-00393-JAG, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3396 (E.D. Va. Jan. 11, 2016).

Dobias-Davis was suing Hoffman, her supervisor, and Amazon, her employer, for defamation and retaliation claims under Title VII and the ADEA. Amazon filed a motion to dismiss the claims, which was granted in part in relation to retaliation, as the court determined it did not have enough factual information to dismiss and denied in part in relation to the defamation claim, as it determined she did not participate in the protected activity.

  • Hammer v., 392 F. Supp. 2d 423 (E.D.N.Y. 2005).

Amazon was involved in an action where plaintiff, Jeffrey Hammer raised a number of claims including breach of contract, defamation, violation of copyright laws. The defamation claims focused on negative reviews posted on the Amazon platform regarding a book written by plaintiff. Plaintiff claimed that Amazon breached their contract because they failed to remove negative reviews of his book from the Amazon platform. The court granted Amazon’s motion for a permanent injunction preventing plaintiff from bringing any future action against Amazon.

  • Schneider v., Inc., 108 Wn. App. 454, 31 P.3d 37, 2001 Wash. App. LEXIS 2086, 29 Media L. Rep. 2421 (Wash. Ct. App. 2001).

In this case, plaintiff had written many books on the topics of both taxation and asset protection. The books were for sale on the Amazon platform. The Amazon platform allows consumers to leave reviews for the products they have purchased. Amazon posted visitor’s comments about plaintiff and his books. The comments were negative and one alleged plaintiff was a felon. The court found that Amazon is immune from liability for defamation by third-parties under the Communications Decency Act because Amazon is a provider of interactive computer services, plaintiff’s claims treat Amazon as a publisher, and Amazon is not the information content provider.