A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) means that a lawsuit has been filed to silence a person from publicly expressing their opinion. What is considered an opinion is a complicated legal issue and you should seek legal advice from your attorney. Nonetheless, SLAPP lawsuits, by statute, are illegal and result in the plaintiff paying the legal bills of the defendant — if the defendant prevails on an anti-SLAPP motion.
Generally speaking, opinions are statements are not defamatory. This includes statements that are very subjective in nature. For example, if someone does not like the food or service of a restaurant, that is considered as an opinion. One person’s statements may differ from that of another and therefore a subjective interpretation can never be considered defamatory. However, an opinion statement may be defamatory when the underlying justification of the opinion is false. For example, if a person opines that no one should go to a particular restaurant that is, in itself, a non-defamatory opinion. However, if the person states that no one should go to the particular restaurant because they got sick after eating food there, then the opinion can be defamatory if the person lied and did not get sick or got sick because they ate something else. This is because now it can be proven whether eating at the particular restaurant made them sick.
While negative reviews can hurt a business, not all statements are defamatory. People are allowed to express their opinion, their likes or dislikes, as long as they are truthful in explaining the basis of their opinion. While selecting an internet defamation attorney, one should always ask them whether the potentially defamatory statement by defendant can be considered as an opinion.
Often judges, and attorneys alike, come to a conclusion that a potentially defamatory statement is “rhetoric hyperbole.” It means the statement is a colloquial exaggeration that no reasonable person would consider for its literal meaning. For example, if Joe calls Bob “garbage,” this signifies that Joe does not like Bob, for some reason– this is an opinion. No one would reasonably interpret that Joe meant to call Bob trash found in a dumpster! Thus, statements or phrases that are not considered for their literal meaning are determined to be rhetoric hyperbole.