Defamation Dispute Likely to Dissipate

By Alison Parker

Reviewed by Jennifer Williams

Maria Menounos may be treading hot water by accusing her former stylist, Lindsay Albanese, of stealing designer duds from her–unless the apparel aficionado really did give herself the five-finger discount on a few fashions. Albanese filed a defamation lawsuit against the former Access Hollywood host in Los Angeles Superior Court over a few catty remarks made at a lavish gift suite party in Hollywood. The complaint alleges that at the party Menounos demanded to speak to Albanese and loudly claimed that “Dolce and Gabbana won’t lend to [her] anymore because they said [Albanese] never returns anything.” Menounos also allegedly told other people that the stylist was stealing from her as well and as a result Albanese has lost clients. It seems to me that Albanese’s defamation action against the hottie TV host is likely to fizzle out, and here’s why:

Defamation cases are tough to win because the burden of proving the defamatory statement and its disparate impact is on the plaintiff. Also, it’s usually a losing battle when you are up against the rigorous free speech protections offered under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In order to prove that Menounos defamed her, Albanese would first have to show that Menounos made a false written or oral statement to a third person. But it is unlikely that Albanese could clear this hurdle due to the difficulty she will have proving the substance of the statement. Because the remarks at issue were spoken, they are not preserved anywhere and are unable to be reviewed. The issue will ultimately come down to the stylist’s word against the celeb’s. Surely Menounos will have a group of allies saying they heard her say one thing, and Albanese’s gang will likely say they heard something else. Basically, Albanese has to find a way to show that Menounos was intentionally spreading word that Albanese was stealing from her despite knowing that what she was saying is false. If Menounos can show that Albanese really was stealing from her, then the defamation claim would be tossed out of court.

But truth isn’t the only way Menounos can escape this defamation debacle. Even if what Menounos said was false, Albanese’s defamation action may still fail if Menounos could show that the statement was merely her opinion based on what she had heard and was not intended to be taken as the truth. The distinction between a false statement intended to be taken as true and a false statement of opinion could potentially come down to a minor difference in verbiage; hypothetically, if Menounos said to others that “I think she is stealing from me,” instead of “she is stealing from me,” it could make all the difference.

In the end, without conclusive proof of the actual utterance, the case will likely turn into a he-said-she-said battle that no court would want to get in the middle of. It seems like the best option for these ladies is to call it a day and settle the matter themselves.

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