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Mann v. Abel - 10 N.Y.3d 271

Rule:

Whether a particular statement constitutes an opinion or an objective fact is a question of law. Expressions of opinion, as opposed to assertions of fact, are deemed privileged and, no matter how offensive, cannot be the subject of an action for defamation. Distinguishing between opinion and fact has proved a difficult task, but the Court of Appeals of New York, in furtherance of that endeavor, has set out the following factors to be considered: (1) whether the specific language in issue has a precise meaning which is readily understood, (2) whether the statements are capable of being proven true or false, and (3) whether either the full context of the communication in which the statement appears or the broader social context and surrounding circumstances are such as to signal readers or listeners that what is being read or heard is likely to be opinion, not fact.

Facts:

Plaintiff attorney sued defendants newspaper and writer, alleging libel. The column at issue was on the "opinion" page of the newspaper and accompanied by an editor's note that the article was an expression of opinion by the author. The trial cour entered judgment in favor of the plaintiff attorney, the judgment of which was affirmed by the appellate court. The newspaper and writer sought further review.

Issue:

Is the expression of opinion in a newspaper article protected from libel complaint?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The judgment was reversed and the complaint was dismissed. Although one could have sifted through the article and argued that false factual assertions were made by the writer, viewing the content of the article as a whole, the article constituted an expression of protected opinion and therefore, summary judgment should have been awarded to the newspaper and the writer.

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