10:22am PT by Eriq Gardner
James Woods Cheers Dropped Appeal from Dead Defendant in $10M Defamation Suit
Forget civility. Just hours after an appeal was dropped on Thursday in James Woods' $10 million defamation lawsuit against an anonymous individual who tweeted the actor was a "cocaine addict," Woods expressed joy about what had occurred.
"The slime who libeled me just dropped his appeal contesting my victorious SLAPP motion," tweeted Woods. "Perennial loser @LisaBloom isn't yapping so much now."
That caused Lisa Bloom, the defendant's attorney, to publicly reveal what had led to the voluntary withdrawal of an appeal that came after a L.A. Superior Court judge in February allowed the case to move forward over a First Amendment-based objection.
"Hi James," Bloom replied to Woods. "As you surely know, my client died. Have a nice day and stay classy!"
It didn't stop there. After others expressed outrage at Woods, the Once Upon a Time in America actor wrote that he hoped the defendant died "screaming my name," adding, "Learn this. Libel me, I'll sue you. If you die, I'll follow you to the bowels of Hell. Get it?"
Woods later deleted the tweet, but here's a screenshot:
This all could be chalked up to the trolling nature of social media these days except for the fact that it comes in the midst of litigation that explores the very topic.
Woods filed his complaint on July 30, 2015, targeting the Twitter user "Abe List," whose social media profile suggested the defendant was a Los Angeles-based, Harvard-educated partner in a private equity firm. Through the lawsuit, the actor aimed to send a message.
"AL, and anyone else using social media to propagate lies and do harm, should take note," stated the complaint. "They are not impervious to the law."
Woods didn't know the true identity of "Abe List," and he attempted to push Twitter to produce records. The social service rejected the efforts in a letter, writing, "Attempts to unmask anonymous online speakers in the absence of a prima facie defamation claim are improper and would chill the First Amendment rights of speakers who use Twitter's platform to express their thoughts and ideas instantly and publicly, without barriers."
Then came the defendant's motion to strike premised on California's anti-SLAPP statute, meant to deter injuries to one's First Amendment rights at an early stage of litigation. The defendant argued that his "cocaine addict" tweet was "a constitutionally protected political insult," the type made routinely by Woods as "a well-known part of Twitter's culture of political hyperbole."
Judge Mel Recana denied the anti-SLAPP motion, writing that "it is clear that any reader of the AL False Statement could and indeed must view it as a statement of fact.... AL's use of a prenomial characterization (i.e. 'cocaine addict') followed by a proper noun (i.e., 'James Woods') is a well-established linguistic structure widely used to characterize people with shorthand factual information."
This led to an appeal, but before a California appeals court got the opportunity to address whether insults on a frequently hyperbolic platform could be capable of defamatory meaning, Woods' attorney Michael Weinsten was informed that the anonymous defendant had died.
The $10 million defamation case will now continue nevertheless. Woods intends to proceed and hopes the dropped appeal means he'll finally learn defendant's identity, a source in his camp tells THR. The case eventually could explore whether the deceased defendant has already admitted malice through previous statements and arguments.
However, according to Kenneth White, the defendant's other attorney, there's no intention to immediately reveal defendant. He hints that the case could be headed to some kind of default that could be governed by probate code.
White adds his client "died of natural causes. He was brilliant and combative. We're trying to protect his identity. We're concerned about his family being harassed and [there's good reason] based on how much they are gloating over his death."