If a radio talk show host calls you a liar, you may just have to take it lying down. This case involved the Tom Martino Show, a nationally-syndicated talk show that tries to help consumers. One day Tom took a call from Melissa, who was complaining that her jet ski kept overheating and for the entire boating season spent more time in the shop than on the water. Tom concluded “they’re just lying to you.” And after talking off air to the dealer and the manufacturer, Tom added “they admitted to us they lied and they went back on their word.” The dealer and manufacturer sued for defamation, but the Court has found for the show saying the statements were not assertions of fact but were just opinion. The Court also said radio talk shows contain many elements that reduce the audience’s expectation of learning objective facts, including drama, hyperbolic language and an opinionated and arrogant host. Also, the plaintiffs were given the opportunity to call in, but chose not to do so. So as far as lawsuits for lying, well, they’re all talk and no go.
THIS IS NEIL CHAYET LOOKING AT THE LAW™
John M. Gardner, Susan L. Gardner and Mt. Hood Polaris, Inc. v. Tom Martino d/b/a The Tom Martino Show, Westwood One, Inc., No. 06-35931, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, April 24, 2009, Marshall, J.