A couple in Ireland was awarded more than 30,000 in damages after the pair’s neighbor defamed them with a series of wild lies and accusations on Facebook.
Patricia Barnett and Paddy Murphy were stunned when their neighbor, Anthony Downes, began posting about them on both Barnett’s private and business Facebook pages, including claims that Murphy was having an affair and that Barnett was overweight. The defamatory posts caused Barnett to lose several clients, while the couple had to reassure their 15-year-old twins that none of it was true. To make matters more confusing, Barnett told the court that she barely knew Downes, and had no clue why he attacked her and her husband.
In his own apology, Downes said he had no “rational explanation” for his behavior. Judge James O’Donoghue also warned against the perils of posting on Facebook when you shouldn’t.
“People perhaps with alcohol late at night can post these remarks and injure people’s character,” he said. “It is a highly dangerous activity and can result in long term hurt to families and people’s good names and this is an example of that.”
The judge is right: if you want to blast your neighbors (or anyone else) on Facebook, it’s best to take a deep breath before you post. The wrong words could land you in big trouble.