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 $11M Penalty for Website that Defamed Bengals Cheerleader

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By Jason Beahm on August 30, 2010 7:07 AM

Dirty World Entertainment Recordings, operator of thedirty.com, has been hit with a judgment of $11 million for libel and defamation. According to the judgment by U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman, the site posted false and malicious statements about Bengals Cheerleader Sarah Jones The judgment was for $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages. The company failed to respond to the lawsuit in February.

Jones alleged that pictures of her were posted on the thedirty.com along with the statement that she had sex with members of the Bengals football team and that the Bengals cheerleader had venereal diseases. The suit also listed Hooman Karamian, AKA, "Nik Ritchie" as a defendant. Karamian operates the site.

Jones attorney, Eric Deters, seemed flabbergasted by the behavior of the sites operator. "This California company was brazen," Deters said, Cincinnati.com reports. "They didn't defend it. They didn't come. They ignored it, what is part of the punitive damage award ... What kind of sick human being says such mean, hurtful false things about somebody," Deters said.

The case has a special value for law geeks, because it is a near perfect illustration of  "defamation per se." Under the common law definition of defamation per se, some statements are so defamatory that they receive special acknowledgement and protection under defamation law. Under such circumstances, the plaintiff does not have to prove that the alleged statements harmed his or her reputation. Classic examples include allegations of serious sexual misconduct, serious criminal misbehavior, or, wait for it...allegations that a person is afflicted with a foul or loathsome disease disease. The classic diseases are leprosy and venereal diseases.

Therefore, thedirty.com left itself wide open for a lawsuit alleging defamation per se, and Judge Bertelsman brought down the hammer.

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