I read an interesting article in the latest issue of Lawyer’s Weekly. Some of my attorney-friends down at Gilbert & Albiston in Norfolk were recently threatened with a complaint to the Virginia State Bar by a medical records company, Record Enterprises Inc. The complaint alleged the firm hadn’t paid a bill of $66.45.
Well, it turns out they didn’t owe a single cent and that the records company never even sent in the complaint, just faxed a copy to the firm.
“Buz” Gilbert then turned around and sued Record Enterprises for libel! The article was published just now because the two sides settled for a cool $2,500. The main argument was over the fact that the company never actually sent the complaint in. The defense argued that publication was required for libel but Gilbert went all the way back to VA Code from 1888 which holds that slander doesn’t have to be heard by a third party and libel does not require publication.
The cited law was originally intended to give legal recourse to an insulted party so as discourage dueling. Good thing too because I can’t imagine “Buz” and the CEO of the records company doing pistols at high noon.