The world of boxing was ROCKED by Jake Paul’s recent accusation that Eddie Hearn had paid judge Glenn Feldman in order to secure favorable scorecards in a series of boxing events. In fact, this accusation reverberated so loudly across the media world that Hearn needed to go to TMZ to inform them that they were filing a defamation lawsuit against Jake Paul in response. Why Eddie Hearn was so incensed that he has made sure to bring up the allegations every chance he gets just in case someone was unaware of these allegations.
Let us start this guide to defamation lawsuits by bringing up a major difference between the laws of the United Kingdom where Mr. Hearn resides and the United States where this case was filed. In the UK, defamatory statements are assumed to be false and the burden of proof is upon the person making the statements to show that what they said was true. In the United States where freedom reigns and eagles scream the words of the First Amendment of the Constitution as they soar on high, the burden of proof is upon the plaintiff to show that the defendant knowingly made false statements.
For the sake of brevity, the four main points in consideration of defamation are as follows;
Of those points, the one that is clearly true is that Jake Paul communicated his statement to a third party. Paul was being interviewed by IFL TV when he made these statements concerning his belief that Glenn Feldman had been paid by Eddie Hearn to render favorable score cards.
But proving the other points is where Hearn will face an uphill battle. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York. When it comes to defamation lawsuits the federal courts are informed by the 1964 US Supreme Court ruling of New York Times Co v. Sullivan which was a landmark ruling that established that libel law was constitutionalized and that defendants were afforded protections under the First Amendment. This ruling also established the “actual malice standard” when it comes to public officials.
Actual malice requires ” plaintiff must demonstrate that the publisher knew that the statement was false or acted with reckless disregard to the truth of the statement.”. A subsequent ruling in the 1967 Supreme Court case Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts extended the standard to public figures, not just public officials. And the 1968 Supreme Court case St. Amant v. Thompson the court elaborated on the actual malice standard by stating that it was up to the plaintiff to demonstrate that the defendant actually had doubts about the truth or falsity of the story.
This would be the first hurdle to clear for Hearn’s case. While the filing (available on Court Listener thanks to the efforts of @arejaywoof ) repeatedly states that Paul made false statements, the filing also supports a possible Paul defense under actual malice by stating that Paul was aware of the “enormity of his proclamation”.
It would seem that Paul is well-aware of the potential ramifications of his statements. Not seemingly to be acting with reckless disregard and throughout the interview never acknowledged that he believed the statements he was making were false. Furthermore, the Hearn filing states that even when given an opportunity to retract his statements, Jake Paul did not do so.
Again, meeting the actual malice standard can be an issue and I find issues with the reasoning behind Hearn’s claim that Paul should have known his statements were false but I do not want to get too far into the weeds given there’s only been the plaintiffs filing so far in the case.
Moving on, we come to the point where many a defamation case has floundered. That being the ability to demonstrate damages. Hearn is claiming that the damage to his reputation is of some potential as-of-yet-unknown financial amount but it apparently does meet the $75000 standard that federal lawsuits require.
Given that it was less than six days from when Paul made his statements to when Hearn filed his case it cannot be expected that there would have been any apparent damages. And to his attorney’s credit they do highlight the issue of reputational damage that is possible by bringing up another standard the courts have used in defamation cases in regards to damage within a specific community.
This is very true. There are very few individuals who are operating at the top of the sport of boxing. And damage to one’s reputation could hurt the business prospects. But it would also require an examination of Hearn’s reputation within this closely knit group of professionals. Let’s take a look at how Eddie was viewed prior to Paul’s statements.
So you can clearly see the high regard in which the top promoters in the United States hold Eddie Hearn. It would be a shame if Jake Paul’s statements would cause the members of the tight-knit boxing world to change their opinions on Hearn.
The real takeaway I have upon reading this filing is that I believe it is nowhere near a serious claim and there are two issues that lead me to this conclusion.
The first being that the filing does not contain a claim for monetary damages. Yet Hearn’s lawyers went to TMZ to declare that they were suing for $100 million. If this is the amount they are seeking, why is it not in the filing? They are claiming that Eddie Hearn cannot escape these defamatory accusations because of Jake Paul’s internet presence but then they go out and manufacture a number that would insure the story gained new life?
Secondly, and probably more important, the lawsuit claims that Matchroom boxing has spent three decades to build up its position as the “preeminent boxing promotion in the world”. Which means they’ve made a case for Paul’s attorneys to request discovery over the entirety of those three decades. I find it hard to believe that Eddie is going to subject himself to depositions regarding how Matchroom Boxing spent several years dealing with Daniel Kinahan. The now sanctioned head of an international drug cartel.
But this is boxing, stranger things have happened.
Eddie Hearn, CEO of Matchroom Boxing