Internet postings lead to lawsuits

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – In the age of the internet, anything you say online can come back to haunt you and even force you into a court of law. Innocent blog posts, or Facebook messages that you think nothing of, could be enough ammunition for someone to file a lawsuit.

While the internet is a relatively new form of communication, the same rules apply. Be careful what you say about someone, if it's not true and could end up hurting them. It is a lesson one local blogger learned the hard way. Two years ago local bartender Jack Lauterback quit his 9 to 5 corporate job to start slinging drinks.

"I started it when I essentially quit the real world," said Lauterback.

Around the same time, he launched the bar blog "Jack Goes Forth" about his experience and quickly started to get Richmond's attention.

"The blog was my way of chronicling the kind of craziness that goes with that scene," he said.

And chronicle he did. Not afraid to poke fun at some of the river city's biggest names and honestly tell what he saw on a nightly basis. Including a run in he had with a local journalist.

"One of their reporters tipped poorly at a restaurant and we had a little altercation and I just kind of reported what I saw," Lauterback said.

He posted the account on Jack Goes Forth. That post found its way into the office of the reporter's boss, who threatened a lawsuit.

"To fight something like that would've been basically impossible for me," he said.

"Defaming someone on the internet is just the same as defaming them on television or in newsprint," said Steve Benjamin, NBC12 Legal Analyst.

According to attorney Steven Benjamin, the laws of libel don't stop at your computer screen. But libel cases are tough to prove and as long as the story is true, there is no case.

"You can say things that are truthful; the truth is always a defense," Benjamin said.

In Lauterback's case, the truth did protect him from a lawsuit. But it did not save his job.

"They can fire you for no grounds whatsoever, but in terms of legal action I wouldn't be too scared as long as you are saying what actually happened and you can prove it happened," Lauterback said.

And it's that fine line that edgy bloggers like Jack Lauterback walk every time they log on. Lauterback has also had a run-in with a local politician which caused him to lose his job. He told us that despite these experiences, he will continue to write whatever he wants.

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