The defamation suit filed by Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi against Glenn Beck, who publicly declared him to be the “money man” behind the Boston Marathon bombing, may have just gotten a lot more expensive. The judge has allowed Alharbi to add a count of unjust enrichment, which could push the damages should Beck lose much higher.
In order to prove defamation, a plaintiff must show that false statements were made about him and that those statements caused harm to the plaintiff’s reputation. It is now clear that indeed false statements were made by Beck about Alharbi and it should not be difficult for Alahrbi to prove that his reputation was harmed by those statements, however, the case does not end there.
In the landmark Supreme Court case of New York Times v. Sullivan and in a series of cases since then including Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts, the Supreme Court ruled that when it comes to public officials and public figures, there is an additional burden of proof for a plaintiff alleging he has been defamed by the media. In those cases, a plaintiff will not be successful in a defamation case unless he can prove in addition to the statements being false and that he was harmed by the statements that the statements were made with malice either knowing the statements were false or with a reckless disregard for the truth. This higher standard makes it much more difficult for a public official or public figure to win a defamation lawsuit. Thus Beck’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit by arguing that Alharbi was a public figure and Alharbi had not alleged that Beck had made his statements with malice. In December the judge denied Beck’s motion.
Now in a significant ruling, Judge Patti B. Saris has allowed Alharbi to amend his defamation lawsuit by adding a count for unjust enrichment. In allowing this count to be added to the complaint, Judge Saris has significantly upped the amount of a possible judgment. In her decision, Judge Saris stated that “Massachusetts courts have recognized that misuse of confidential information may lead to unjust enrichment.” Judge Saris also cited the defamation and unjust enrichment lawsuit brought by former Minnesota Governor and former Navy SEAL, Jesse Ventura against Chris Kyle, the author of the book and the subject of the movie “American Sniper.” In the book and in a later interview with Bill O’Reilly about the book, Kyle described an alleged bar fight involving Ventura during a wake for one of Kyle’s comrades killed in action. In his O’Reilly interview account of the fight, Kyle quoted Ventura as saying the Seals deserved to “lose a few” due to their involvement in an unjust war in Iraq. In Kyle’s version of the altercation, Ventura ended up “on the floor” with a black eye. The case went to trial after the death of Kyle and ended with a largely reported verdict in favor of Ventura, the plaintiff. What was less reported was the jury’s verdict consisted of an award of $500,000 for defamation and $1.35 million for unjust enrichment.
I hope this costs Beck every single penny he’s made. I hope he goes down so hard that he’s on the sidewalk begging for change after it’s done.