As promised, here’s the thorough analysis of the merit decision in this case. Interesting reading, I promise!
Today, the Supreme Court of Ohio released the most-awaited decision of the year—Am. Chem. Soc. v. Leadscope, Inc. Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-4193. As I long suspected, it is a very split decision. It’s 58 pages, plus appendices. Chief Justice O’Connor wrote the lead opinion. Because I have a day job, I won’t have time to analyze this case until later. In the meantime, here is the syllabus, and the breakdown of the justices (which should give you a hint of the complexity and what took so long!) The short version is that although the trial court gave the wrong jury instruction on the unfair competition claim based on malicious litigation—it told the jury to apply a bad faith standard, when the correct standard is an “objectively baseless” standard, coupled with a subjective intent to injure the other party’s ability to be competitive, there was overwhelming evidence to support the jury’s verdict against ACS on this claim. Relatedly the Court found ACS’s misappropriation claim agaisnt Leadscope had no evidence whatsoever to support it. The Court however found in favor of ACS on the defamation claim, finding its statements were not defamatory as a matter of law. So Leadscope wins the main event on the unfair competition claim, but lost its verdict on the defamation claim. More thorough analysis later.
SYLLABUS OF THE COURT
1. To successfully establish an unfair competition claim based upon legal action, a party must show that the legal action is objectively baseless and that the opposing party had the subjective intent to injure the party’s ability to be competitive.
2. In determining whether a statement is defamatory as a matter of law, a court must review the totality of the circumstances and read the statement in the context of the entire publication to determine whether a reasonable reader would interpret it as defamatory.
3. A client is vicariously liable for its attorney’s defamatory statements only if the client authorized or ratified the statements.
Breakdown of the justices
LANZINGER AND MCGEE BROWN, JJ., concur.
PFEIFER, J., concurs in part one of the judgment, and dissents in all other respects.
LUNDBERG STRATTON and O’DONNELL, JJ., concur in all syllabus paragraphs and in part two of the judgment and the portion of the opinion relating thereto, and dissent as to part one of the judgment.
CUPP, J., concurs in paragraph one of the syllabus and dissents in all other respects