Just when you thought it was safe to tell the truth online, a jury in Minnesota found a blogger liable for doing so, whacking him with a $60,000 judgment. It seems that in his blog, “The Adventures of Johnny Northside,” Mr. John (“Johnny Northside”) Hoff had written a post accusing one Jerry Moore of being involved in a “high-profile fraudulent mortgage.” A day after the post, Moore was fired by the University of Minnesota from his new position there to study mortgage foreclosures with its Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center.
Moore then sued Hoff for defamation and for interference with his contract with the university. [Minnesota Star Tribune] The case went to trial before a jury. The jury concluded that Hoff’s statement was not false. [Special Jury Verdict Form] The jury also found that Hoff had “tortiously” interfered with Moore’s employment contract and prospective advantage and awarded Moore $35,000 in contractual damages plus $25,000 for Moore’s emotional distress.
Undeterred, Hoff asserts that he will appeal the verdict all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary. [The Adventures of Johnny Northside, March 22, 2011] At least one Minnesota law firm suggests that interference with a contract requires the interference to be “unjustified” or “improper” and thus cannot be based on providing truthful information. “’One who intentionally causes a third person not to perform a contract or not to enter into a prospective contractual relation with another does not interfere improperly with the other’s contractual relation, by giving the third person truthful information.’ Restatement (Second) of Torts § 772 (1979) (emphasis added) (cited with approval in Glass Serv. Co., Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 530 N.W.2d 867, 871 (Minn. Ct. App. 1995)).” [Skjold Parrington]
While he awaits further developments, Hoff continues to blog about his neighborhood’s goings-on including the whereabouts of one “Spanky Pete.” [The Adventures of Johnny Northside]