No matter how dissatisfied you are with a former employer, it isn’t wise to blast said employer online and risk being accused of libel.
For all you know, your former employer could sue you.
That’s what happened to former bank executive Robert Rogers, who let off a little steam in Craigslist’s “Rants And Raves” section about his previous employer, Summit Bank.
Lucky for Rogers that after going through a three-year whirlwind of lawsuits, a state appeals court overturned on Wednesday the libel lawsuit filed by the bank.
Summit sued Rogers for defamation in Alameda Superior Court in 2009 after he posted comments on Craigslist that the bank was being watched by federal regulators, and urging “that any one that banks at Summit Bank leave before they close,” following the close of Summit’s Hayward branch.
The bank claimed that Rogers’ comments weren’t protected under the free speech amendment per a 1917 law that prohibited the circulation of “untrue statements or rumors about the financial condition of a bank.”
But the three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered yesterday that the suit be dismissed. Not only was the 1917 law ruled unconstitutional, but the claim that Rogers’ words were defamatory were deemed bogus, since the Hayward branch of Summit Bank had indeed been closed and federal regulators were in fact looking at the bank.
Furthermore, the court wrote:
“Readers expect to see strongly worded opinions rather than objective facts on online message boards such as the Craigslist ‘Rants and Raves.’”
Summit Bank could appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court. As of yesterday, the bank and its representatives were not available for comment.