It's Not Defamation if No One Knows It's You -- Sammy Hagar Defeats Defamation Claim


The first element of defamation is sometimes forgotten. The defamatory statement must be about the plaintiff. In most instances that will be self-evident, but sometimes the identity of the person being defamed will be known only to that person, and that will not support an action.

This situation arises in "tell-all" books that don't name the people being discussed. Whether the person can successfully sue for defamation will turn on whether third parties recognize the person, even though the he or she is unnamed and the facts have been altered. In this case, rocker Sammy Hagar wrote in his book that a "Playboy bunny" had extorted money from him by claiming to be pregnant. The court found that reference was insufficient to identify the woman in question, and dismissed her defamation action.

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