The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

$370K Verdict in Bee Libel Lawsuit


Minneapolis Star Tribune (John Reinan) reports:

A Traverse County jury made the award to Nancy and Keith Budke of Wheaton, Minn. The Budkes, in the bee business for more than 40 years, sold 75 Texas hives to Nick Olsen of Maple Lake.

When Olsen got the hives home from Texas, he found that the bees had died in transit. Olsen blamed the Budkes, claiming the bees were infected with several diseases. He took to Facebook and vented about the deal, saying the Budkes were "screwing" him, calling them names and warning others not to buy bees from them.

The Budkes sued Olsen for libel, bringing in expert testimony showing that the bees' health was normal and suggesting that Olsen's own handling of the bees likely was the cause of their death.

Traverse County District Judge Amy Doll ruled in favor of the Budkes and sent the case to a jury to decide damages. In a verdict issued late last month, the jury awarded the couple $105,000 for business losses caused by the libel, $240,000 for loss of reputation and $25,000 in punitive damages, for a total of $370,000.

Thanks to the Media Law Resource Center (MLRC) MediaLawDaily for the pointer.