Joseph Greenwald & Laake principal attorney Brian Markovitz was quoted several times in a Variety article regarding President Donald Trump’s denial of sexual misconduct which has left him open to defamation lawsuits.
The article revolves around Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice” who made sexual misconduct allegations against Trump in October 2016. The statute of limitations was likely to preclude litigation over the claim, which was nine-years-old at the time. Trump denied her allegations, along with those of other accusers, threatening to sue them and calling them “liars.” Now, Zervos has sued for defamation, saying that her reputation was harmed by Trump’s claims.
She is not the first to bring a defamation suit against a public figure after their denial of a sexual misconduct allegation, but Markovitz said that it is new that these suits are getting coverage.
Markovitz explained that defamation lawsuits are expensive and hard to win. For average women who work typical jobs, the suits are less useful since the defendants usually are neither wealthy nor well-known. However, this suit is different, because Zervos’ credibility is at stake on a national level.
“Her damages could be very extensive because she has been humiliated and called a liar in the national media,” Markovitz said.
Trump’s lawyers have argued that according to First Amendment law, political statements in political context are non-actionable political opinion and that “expected fiery rhetoric, hyperbole and opinion” are all protected forms of speech.
Markovitz said that this case is “a sexual harassment trial within a defamation lawsuit,” and that Trump’s fiery rhetoric is not helping him legally.
“He is not stating it’s his opinion she is a liar,” Markovitz said. “He is stating she is a liar…The problem [his legal team is] going to have is there’s a videotape” of him saying it.
Brian Markovitz is a principal in JGL’s Labor and Employment and Civil Litigation practice groups and focuses on helping victims who have suffered severe injustices in the workplace. He represents individuals in complex employment litigation and appellate matters involving wrongful termination, retaliation by employers in response to reporting fraud or misconduct and discrimination on the basis on race, gender, age and sexual orientation.
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