Defamation Lawsuits Don’t Always Require Naming Names

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(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Can you sue for defamation even if you are never named?

After actress Pamela Anderson launched her animal charity by telling a crowd she took refuge in animals after she’d been gang raped by her 9th grade boyfriend and six of his friends, a high school boyfriend of hers came forward to ask her to say who it was who raped her, lest the world point the finger at him. And also maybe just a little to tell the world that he dated Pam Anderson!

You can see why he’d want the world to know…that he’s not a rapist. But if she says “I was raped by my high school boyfriend” without ever naming any names and so suspicion wrongly falls on him, does he have a legal claim against her? Maybe.

It is possible to sue for defamation even if you are never named, so long as a reasonable person would be able to figure out from context that it was you.

A man sued Wolf of Wall Street producers because he says they obviously based a sleazy character with a bad toupee on him, even though his name was changed in the movie.

As for Ms. Anderson’s boyfriend, it seems unlikely that he could win a lawsuit because she probably had more than one high school boyfriend (or at least a lot of wanna be boyfriends) so it would be impossible to identify him from the context.

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