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Defamation Caselaw - Muhaisen v. Doe - Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order

Gavel and handcuffs on a deskColorado law is comprised of statutory law set forth in statutes created by the legislature, and caselaw which interprets it. The two must be examined together for a comprehensive understanding of the law of defamation. In Muhaisen v. Doe, the Plaintiff was an attorney who became the subject of YouTube videos posted by anonymous posters accusing him of criminal acts. The videos falsely accused him of criminal acts.

The United States District Court for the District of Colorado issued a temporary restraining order mandatory injunction for the posters to take down the videos and keep them down. This case is a good example of a “John Doe case” wherein the Defendants post anonymously hiding their true identity. The Plaintiff then had to file against “John Doe” as he did not know the true name of the Defendant. Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging a number of claims to include business disparagement, libel per se and invasion of privacy among others.

Plaintiff filed for a temporary restraining order and then a preliminary injunction to have the videos removed. The Plaintiff served a subpoena on Google and received information as to the poster’s e-mail and IP address. This was not sufficient to identify the Defendant, however was sufficient information with which to attempt to provide notice to Defendant of the suit. The United States District Court of the District of Colorado granted the restraining order and the Defendant continued to post. The restraining order prohibited the Defendants from posting or maintaining the YouTube videos. The Defendant had created a new website and posted links to the videos. Because of the continued posting the Court then issued a preliminary injunction.

Legal Standard For Preliminary Injunction

The legal grounds for a preliminary injunction are:

  • A likelihood of success on the merits
  • A likelihood that the movant will suffer irreparable harm
  • That the balance of equities tips in the movants favor
  • That the injunction is in the public interest

The Court determined that the Defendant had apparently committed libel per se because the defamatory meaning was apparent on the fact of the communications as they accused the attorney of criminal conduct. Plaintiff had submitted evidence that the allegations were false to include a sworn affidavit. The Court determined that the attorney was not required to prove actual damages because of the serious nature of the allegations.

The Court also determined that the Defendant had no legitimate interest in publishing statements made with a reckless disregard for the truth and having a primary purpose of damaging Plaintiff’s reputation. The Court determined that neither intentional lies or careless errors further the public interest and authorized Google to remove all libelous content.

Turning Change Into Opportunity in Colorado

A knowledgeable and experienced attorney from a defamation law firm can guide you through Colorado defamation matters by negotiating, mediating and litigating. This allows you to focus on to a better future. Defamation matters are difficult to navigate alone.

Sabra Janko from Janko Family Law Solutions is a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who protects your best interests and ensures that you are aware of your legal rights and obligations. Contact us at 719-344-5523 for a free 30-minute informational consultation or complete our online form.

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