Mahendra Trivedi makes the outlandish claim that he can cure cancer and make cattle and crops grow better with energy from his body.
If your immediate response is “Hogwash!” and you blog that response, Trivedi may sue you for defamation. Ask Minnesota blogger Dennis Lang:
According to a lawsuit, the success of the “Trivedi Effect” has been torpedoed by online smears from a guy in St. Paul named Dennis Lang.
…in an affidavit filed in court in March, Trivedi said Lang had published “terrible, false statements about me” that had hurt his business and scared away business associates and supporters, including Deepak Chopra, the world-famous self-help and meditation maven.
Trivedi and Lang have never met or spoken, though Lang said he tried to get an interview once. Lang said he has always pursued his inquiries with skepticism, not malice.
“I felt I was telling what was truthful about him,” he said.
Lang said he was thinking of writing a magazine article when he posted a comment in March 2011 on the Deepak Chopra blog, asking anyone who had direct contact with Trivedi to contact him. He said a number of former employees and others responded, including some who told stories “that were nothing short of harrowing,” according to an affidavit he filed in February.
One of those people created a blog, PurQi.com, which became a forum for critical posts about Trivedi. Among other accusations, Lang’s postings questioned the scientific basis of the “Trivedi Effect,” called Trivedi a “sham” and reported allegations of sexual misconduct and immigration violations, according to the lawsuit. [James Eli Shiffer, “Minnesota Blogger Sued for Defamation Finds It All a Learning Experience,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 2015.07.04].
The idea that a medicine man can claim that he can cure cancer, offer no reliable or replicable scientific proof of said claim, and then sue those who point out that lack of scientific proof is remarkable and appalling. But Lang’s claims have gone beyond scientific skepticism to include grave allegations of criminal conduct.
I am curious to see if Trivedi now sues the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Dakota Free Press for reporting such statements. I’m also curious to know what you think of the content you’ve seen on this blog over the past few years. Have any of my reports on Richard Benda, Joop Bollen, Marty Jackley, Annette Bosworth, or others crept into defamation territory? Remember: to prove defamation, you have to prove that (1) the statement is false and (2) it is made with intent to harm.
Perhaps he credits the use of Cannabis with his unique metaphysical abilities. The abilities of Cannabis to solve every problem known to humankind is simply amazing!
Hey now, you have your own thread for that topic. Besides, I see no indication that Trivedi has taken a position on marijuana use.
Are we sure? He could be holding out on us. lol
I can do anything better than anyone else,as long as I don’t HAVE to prove it. Makes me the GOAT,don’t it?
Spurious claims aside, I think you’re probably in the clear, Cory.
As a former editor and sometimes coordinator of investigative journalism projects and later a professor who taught journalism courses, I’ve had to spend a lot of time keeping updated on the subject of libel. I was sent to seminars held on the subject and was one of the staff members assigned to insure that the newspaper published nothing that could be considered libel. Over the years, the application of the rules have changed, largely because of laws governing the Internet. Truth is the defense against a charge of libel. That is why journalists made sure they had three credible sources for any negative and potentially damaging information. But back in those days, any false statement of a negative nature was presumed to be damaging and could produce substantial financial awards to the libeled. Journalism organizations could be put out of business by having to pay the awards, and so journalists were exceedingly careful about such matters. What has changed is that the standard of what is considered damaging has been made tougher. A libeled person now has to prove that a false statement has measurably hurt him/her in their occupation. These seems more a matter of the way case law has evolved in interpreting the slander and libel statutes, which have not changed over the years. In my time, the stringent rules applied to letters to the editor, as a news organization was responsible for anything it published. There did not have to be any intention to harm, although statements made in error were presumed malicious.
It looks as if Trivedi’s suit is based largely on alleged damages to his ability to pursue his occupation, but if Lang can produce documentation and witnesses to back up his statements, the case against him seems flimsy.
As far as your blog goes, I have never seen a post that did not refer to some documentation, although sometimes the comments flirt dangerously with libel. But they are often saved because because they seem to be made under the fair comment and criticism rule, which protects opinions expressed about actions by government and performances by entertainers.
Some years back, I was aware that a libel suit was imminent against a blogger, but was not pursued when the plaintiffs found that the blogger did not have finances so that they could ever hope to collect damages. One of the reasons libel is not pursued more often is that so few lawyers will take libel cases and fees of those who do are prohibitive.
Interesting, David—perhaps the best defense against a defamation suit is not truth but poverty?
South Dakota statutes make an interesting distinction between libel and slander, although both qualify as defamation.
Libel is broadly defined in SDCL 20-11-3 as “a false and unprivileged publication by writing, printing, picture, effigy, or other fixed representation to the eye which exposes any person to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, or which causes him to be shunned or avoided, or which has a tendency to injure him in his occupation.” Under this definition nothing that is written would automatically qualify as libel or defamation.
Slander is defined in a different way. SDCL 20-11-4 gives a more specific definition treating certain statements as slander or defamation per se, including false or unprivileged assertions that someone:
– has committed a crime,
– has been indicted or charged with a crime,
– has “an infectious, contagious, or loathsome disease,”
– is not qualified to perform “his office, profession, trade, or business . . . ”
– “Imputes to him impotence or want of chastity. . . .”
So if you are worried about being sued for defamation, it would seem that it is somewhat more dangerous to move your lips than move your fingers on your key board.
It seems that words like libel, slander and defamation have become idle words of threats. How many times on blogs and social media do we hear someone say, “I’m going to sue for libel or slander, you have defamed me”.
Are there any active lawsuits happening in South Dakota?
When was the last time in South Dakota when a libel or slander case was won in South Dakota?
janklow v. newsweek, 788 f.2d 1300 (1983) update would answer question. (brought by pat duffey’s mentor.). openjurist blog has nice (but old) discussion
Roger, as you probably are aware, in the 1980’s and 90’s Bill Janklow filed defamation lawsuits against “Peter Matthiessen and Viking Press for a statement included in the book In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (1983), and another suit against Newsweek magazine for its coverage of the alleged rape.” Janklow lost these lawsuits.
There was another defamation case pending in the courts pitting Beef Products Inc. v. ABC over the alleged “pink slime” report. In 2014 or so the SD Supreme Court agreed with a circuit court ruling and allowed the case to go forward on something like 21 counts of defamation. This could be considered at least a partial victory for BPI. I did not find any reports on Google that indicated the case has been resolved by settlement or decision. As of Aug 12, 2014, Reuters reported the case was going forward in the SD Circuit Court.
good catch bcb. how i would remember wild bill and not pink slime is amazing:)
google josh long legal editor, fpd for excellent reporting of sdcl 20-10A-1in bpi v. abc. high hurdles for bpi.
dakota dunes lawyers love this-almost 300 page complaint. yikes. they see bpi as a deep pocket, and, but unlikely, abc.
probably same as joe butler saw janklow.
Thanks for the information Bear and yes I recall the Janklow case, not only did Janklow lose the case he gave Peter Matthiessen a whole bunch of free press and exposed Janklow to a much wider audience.
So, apparently there are no active libel/slander cases in the state.
Very thoughtful and informative blog you folks have here, discovered coincidentally. Here’s my take on the ongoing drama I’m personally involved in, referred to above:
One of these days I’d like to interview the lawyers who accept clients like this. These attorneys promote themselves on their web pages as “reputation managers”. I wonder if the actual credibility of the client means anything at all to them or is it entirely a matter of manipulating the nuances of libel law to suffocate commentary contrary to the message the client wants to convey even if the client is incontestably dirty. Of course getting paid to do it.
Unfortunate, even diabolical use of our justice system, but I’m learning that’s the reality. This self-proclaimed guru/healer has initiated eleven different lawsuits by my last count seeking damages in the $100’s of millions. He hasn’t won any of them. Most didn’t have jurisdiction in the first place. But it forces people to defend themselves with a financial and psychological cost, and threatens others with dire consequences should they have the audacity to offend the message of the guru.
Eleven lawsuits from “reputation managers”—deceit on top of deceit, and rank intimidation. I’m sorry you’re catching such grief, Dennis. We can’t get our Legislative branch to take climate science seriously, but a guy claiming to have unique magic energy beaming out of his body can get the judicial branch to help him scare skeptics into silence.