Winklevoss Twins’ Defamation Claim Dismissed; Actual Malice Not Shown

In Winklevoss v. Steinberg, 2019 NY Slip Op 02419 (App. Div. 1st Dept. March 28, 2019), the court unanimously affirmed the dismissal of plaintiffs’ defamation claim.

The court based its decision on the plaintiffs’ status (public figures) and their failure to prove “actual malice”, the applicable standard under these circumstances.

As to their status, the court reasoned:

Plaintiffs are limited purpose public figures. Through their voluntary participation in numerous interviews, in widely-covered conferences and meetings with entrepreneurs, and in their own radio broadcasts, they have attracted public attention to themselves as investors in start-ups, have voluntarily injected themselves into the world of investing, and have sought to establish their reputation as authorities in the field[.] … The individual plaintiffs are also general purpose public figures, famous by virtue of their participation in the Olympics, their portrayal in the film “The Social Network,” and routine coverage in popular media, coverage in which they willingly participate[.]

Therefore, “to withstand dismissal of their defamation claim, plaintiffs needed to allege that defendant published the statements at issue with actual malice, that is, with either knowledge that they were false, or reckless disregard for the truth.”

Since they failed to do so as a matter of law, their defamation claim was properly dismissed.