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Defendant accuses Plaintiff of cheating in a competition. Plaintiff sues Defendant for defamation.

Plaintiff has heard rumours that Defendant is racist. Assuming these could be substantiated in some way:

  1. Would it have been unhelpful for Plaintiff to bring this up in the lawsuit (given that Plaintiff did not do so)?

  2. Would it be unhelpful for Plaintiff to bring this up later on eg in depositions or actual trial?

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3 Answers 3

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assuming Hans some evidence of this possible racism: Would it have been unhelpful for Hans to bring this up in the lawsuit?

Although seemingly a stretch, the possible relevance of defendant's racism is twofold: (1) as supplementary proof of the defamation concept of actual malice, and (2) to attack defendant's credibility. The latter issue is in line with the answer George White posted. But, as always, factual details might lead to a different conclusion.

At the outset, it seems unlikely that defendant's racism is his ulterior motive in a context of competitions of intellectual skill where something highly valuable is at stake. If the plaintiff cannot bridge the gap, pursuing that argument could be perceived as a distracting tactic. A defendant might be overtly racist, but that does not automatically prove a particular state of mind in regard to defamatory falsehoods.

Would it be unhelpful for Hans to bring this up later on eg in depositions or actual trial?

It depends on procedural constraints and litigation strategy, as explained in the last paragraph in this other answer.

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    I don't see how evidence of racism would help establish actual malice.
    – bdb484
    Feb 13, 2023 at 16:45
  • @bdb484 If Ashanti is racist against Bidatz, then Ashanti could be falsely accusing Bidatz out of racism. Why not? I think it's common in racism for racists to suspect their victims doing evil things.
    – BCLC
    Mar 29 at 11:27
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    @BCLC What does that have to do with actual malice?
    – bdb484
    Mar 29 at 12:13
  • @bdb484 Ashanti has malice against the Bidatz. Ashanti doesn't really believe Bidatz cheated. Ashanti is just a sore loser for losing specifically against Bidatz' people.
    – BCLC
    Mar 29 at 12:19
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    That's got nothing to do with "actual malice," which is a totally distinct legal concept from malice.
    – bdb484
    Mar 29 at 14:15
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Information about a defendant’s character or past misdeeds are not generally admissible during a court proceeding.

It can be brought in to rebut testimony. If the defendant takes the stand and asserts that they never discriminated against anyone due to their nation of origin, then evidence they they have done so becomes relevant.

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  • Thanks George White. I notice your 2 paragraphs kinda contradict. You say it's not generally admissible but then all I have to do to make it admissible is to get the defendant on the stand and ask that. Or you mean the defendant could just plead the 5th? Or maybe in the 1st place the plaintiff's attorney might get an 'objection. relevance?' from the defendant's attorney? But of course the the plaintiff's attorney will just say 'Goes to show defendant doesn't really believe but is sore loser due to being a racist' ?
    – BCLC
    Feb 8, 2023 at 7:27
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    Your side asking if the defendant is a racist in a case about cheating would not be allowed. The topic only becomes relevant if the defendant first asserted something as part of their case Then you can use evidence to the contrary to rebut. Feb 8, 2023 at 15:29
  • George White but surely there are standard strategies to get the defendant to in fact say something like 'I "never discriminated against anyone due to their nation of origin"' ?
    – BCLC
    Feb 13, 2023 at 19:36
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Bringing up rumors is rarely helpful in litigation. Rumors are hearsay, and therefore typically inadmissible.

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  • I'm asking if the rumours have evidence to back it up. So why is hearsay relevant? I'm then asking about the evidence.
    – BCLC
    Feb 13, 2023 at 19:30
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    Your question has gone through several permutations. It previously asked about rumors. If you want to ask about evidence, I'd recommend setting up a new question.
    – bdb484
    Feb 13, 2023 at 19:58
  • See the very 1st version. I said the word 'evidence'.
    – BCLC
    Feb 14, 2023 at 7:49
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    I've already seen it. It was a mess, which is why it was rewritten. If you want to ask about evidence, I'd recommend setting up a new question.
    – bdb484
    Feb 14, 2023 at 12:19

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