Case Caption: George R. Simpson v. Andrew L. Capedeville, P.C., et al.Case Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2013-0144Date: 04/18/2016Author: Cabret, Maria M. Citation: Summary:

On appeal from a Superior Court order holding a defamation defendant in contempt for failing to comply with an earlier order finding him liable and ordering him to disable and remove several websites containing allegedly defamatory statements made against the plaintiff attorney and his law firm, the statements are held to be not defamatory as a matter of law. Only statements that are provable as false are actionable. Where a statement is so imprecise or subjective that it is not capable of being proved true or false, it is not actionable in defamation. Hyperbole and expressions of opinion not provable as false fail to meet this action ability element of a defamation claim, and are also constitutionally protected. Plaintiffs had the burden of proving that the statements were false as part of their case-in-chief at trial. While calling a private individual a liar could, in some very limited circumstances, permit recovery for defamation, such statements must still be provable as false in order to constitute actionable defamation. In this case, as a matter of law all of the defendant's allegedly defamatory statements are personal opinions representing subjective viewpoints and beliefs about the plaintiffs that cannot be proved as false. These statements both fail to satisfy the requirements of defamation under Virgin Islands law, and are entitled to First Amendment protection. Therefore, the Superior Court's order finding the defendant liable for making defamatory statements against the plaintiffs is reversed, the resulting contempt sanctions are vacated, and the matter is remanded to with directions to dismiss the complaint with prejudice.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion