M. Andrew Brison won a 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

M. Andrew Brison in the Charleston, West Virginia office won a 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss on a claim alleging false light, defamation, and slander.  The plaintiff was the principal of a high school who failed to timely notify law enforcement or the School Superintendent about a student allegedly sexually assaulted by another student.  Criminal charges were filed against the principal but ultimately dismissed due to the ambiguous language contained in the mandatory reporting laws. The incident was widely publicized by the press.  A School Board member, after a meeting regarding this incident, stated to the press “: “I voted to make him the principal at Capital High School. It was the second worst mistake I ever made but I did it and I want to apologize but I did and I’ve had nothing but Complaints…” . Also on February 9, 2015, Defendant Thaw is alleged to have said the following: “I do regret that we’re letting him call the tune when he quits.” “Let’s face it, when this sort of crime occurs most people would report it immediately, apparently we have to say so.”

The Court essentially adopted Mr. Brison’s argument in the MTD.  Specifically, the court held that the principal was a “public figure by the force of consequences;” no disclosure of private facts about the principal were pleaded; the First Amendment of the US Constitution requires that a trial court apply a stricter standard in appraising defamation actions filed by public officials or public figures; and the statements made by the school board member did not reflect shame, contumely, and disgrace; and the statements were opinions of the board member absolutely protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution and cannot form the basis for a defamation action.  The Order was entered on January 17, 2017.

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