No rest for the MyPillow guy
Mike Lindell, the owner and spokesman for MyPillowwill have his hands full defending a libel suit now that a federal court in Minnesota denied his motion to dismiss a libel action filed by the Smartmatic voting machine company. Lindell failed to convince the court he acted without actual malice.
Los Angeles County engaged Smartmatic for the use of Smartmatic’s technology, software, equipment and services to count and report the votes cast in Los Angeles County in the 2020 election. Smartmatic did not provide election support to any other United States county or state during the 2020 election. Los Angeles County experienced no serious problems during the 2020 election, and no questions were raised about security or the reliability or auditability of the results in Los Angeles County.
According to Smartmatic, when President Trump lost the 2020 election and began to contest its result, Lindell began to publicly promote the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen, announcing that the voting machines had been hacked and rigged in favor of President Biden and Vice President Harris. Lindell claimed to have scientific, mathematical and forensic “100% proof” that the voting machines were used to perpetrate election fraud. Lindell created and published a series of documentary videos that purported to provide evidence and facts substantiating his theory that the voting technology of Smartmatic and two other election technology companies, ES&S and Dominion, stole the 2020 election.
Smartmatic decided to get even rather than mad and filed a defamation complaint in the federal court in Minnesota. The case was assigned to Judge Wilhelmina Wright, a Barack Obama appointee. Under Minnesota law, a corporation is a public figure, which means it was required to establish that Lindell made his comments with “actual malice.” The “actual malice” standard requires a plaintiff to prove that a defamatory statement was made “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” To defame with reckless disregard, “the defendant must have made the false publication with a high degree of awareness of . . . probable falsity, or must have entertained serious doubts as to the truth of [the defendant’s] publications.”
Lindell argued that Smartmatic could not establish actual malice “because Lindell has never expressed doubt as to the truthfulness of his challenged statements, Lindell’s statements were not inherently improbable, Lindell has relied on publicly available information, and some voting machines have flaws.” “Never expressing doubt” is the legal equivalent of “sometimes wrong, never uncertain.”
But Smartmatic countered this contention by pointing to various sources of information disproving Lindell’s statements, including individual states’ election reports and audits, media reports, the websites of election technology companies, the testimony and public statements of election officials and election security experts, election monitoring organizations’ reports, and litigation brought by Smartmatic against other alleged defamers in February 2021. According to Smartmatic, this publicly available information establishes that Smartmatic and its competitors are separate companies, that the 2020 election was secure, and that there was no basis to believe that hacking, fraud or rigging had occurred. Smartmatic also alleges that Defendants continued to make defamatory statements about Smartmatic even after receiving contradictory information, including retraction letters Dominion sent to Lindell and a copy of the February 4, 2021 lawsuit that Smartmatic filed against other proponents of election interference theories. According to Smartmatic, Lindell knew of and/or purposefully avoided this prevalent, publicly available information that refuted Lindell’s false statements about election interference and Smartmatic.
The Judge agreed with Smartmatic, and noted that at the motion to dismiss the stage, “Smartmatic has sufficient facts to suggest that Lindell knew or should have known that his statements were false and acted with actual malice in promoting the challenged statements.”
This ruling doesn’t decide the case entirely. Denying a motion to dismiss just means that the case can proceed to the discovery phase. Lindell will have a chance to file a summary judgment down the road, and if that doesn’t work, there is still a trial in the offing. So, Lindell has more opportunities to prevail, but given the detailed allegations in the 131 page complaint, Lindell better sell a lot of pillows. The damages could be massive.
Jack Greiner is a partner at the Graydon law firm in Cincinnati. He represents Enquirer Media in First Amendment and media issues.
This article originally appeared on the Cincinnati Enquirer: Strictly Legal: No rest for the My Pillow guy
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