Business scenarios for business law. 5-1 to 5-9.

5-1.Defamation. Richard is an employee of the Dun Construction Corp. While delivering materials to a construction site, he carelessly backs Dun’s truck into a passenger vehicle driven by Green. This is Richard’s second accident in six months. When the company owner, Dun, learns of this latest accident, a heated discussion ensues, and Dun fires Richard. Dun is so angry that he immediately writes a letter to the union of which Richard is a member and to all other construction companies in the community. In it, Dun states that Richard is the “worst driver in the city” and that “anyone who hires him is asking for legal liability.” Richard files a suit against Dun, alleging libel on the basis of the statements made in the letters. Discuss.

5-2.Liability to Business Invitees. Kim went to Ling’s Market to pick up a few items for dinner. It was a stormy day, and the wind had blown water through the market’s door each time it opened. As Kim entered through the door, she slipped and fell in the rainwater that had accumulated on the floor. The manager knew of the weather conditions but had not posted any sign to warn customers of the water hazard. Kim injured her back as a result of the fall and sued Ling’s for damages. Can Ling’s be held liable for negligence? Discuss.
5-3.Spotlight on Intentional Torts—Defamation. Sharon Yeagle was an assistant to the vice president of student affairs at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). As part of her duties, Yeagle helped students participate in the Governor’s Fellows Program. The Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech’s student newspaper, published an article about the university’s success in placing students in the program. The article’s text surrounded a block quotation attributed to Yeagle with the phrase “Director of Butt Licking” under her name. Yeagle sued the Collegiate Times for defamation. She argued that the phrase implied the commission of sodomy and was therefore actionable. What is Collegiate Times’s defense to this claim?
5-4.Business Case Problem with Sample Answer—Negligence. At the Weatherford Hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona, in Room 59, a balcony extends across thirty inches of the room’s only window, leaving a twelve-inch gap with a three-story drop to the concrete below. A sign prohibits smoking in the room but invites guests to “step out onto the balcony” to smoke. Toni Lucario was a guest in Room 59 when she climbed out of the window and fell to her death. Patrick McMurtry, her estate’s personal representative, filed a suit against the Weatherford. Did the hotel breach a duty of care to Lucario? What might the Weatherford assert in its defense? Explain.
5-5.Negligence. Ronald Rawls and Zabian Bailey were in an auto accident in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Bailey rear-ended Rawls at a stoplight. Evidence showed it was more likely than not that Bailey failed to apply his brakes in time to avoid the collision, failed to turn his vehicle to avoid the collision, failed to keep his vehicle under control, and was inattentive to his surroundings. Rawls filed a suit in a Connecticut state court against his insurance company, Progressive Northern Insurance Co., to obtain benefits under an underinsured motorist clause, alleging that Bailey had been negligent. Could Rawls collect? Discuss.
5-6.Negligence. Charles Robison, an employee of West Star Transportation, Inc., was ordered to cover an unevenly loaded flatbed trailer with a 150-pound tarpaulin. The load included uncrated equipment and pallet crates of different heights, about thirteen feet off the ground at its highest point. While standing on the load, manipulating the tarpaulin without safety equipment or assistance, Robison fell headfirst and sustained a traumatic head injury. He filed a suit against West Star to recover for his injury. Was West Star “negligent in failing to provide a reasonably safe place to work,” as Robison claimed? Explain.
5-7.Negligence. DSC Industrial Supply and Road Rider Supply are located in North Kitsap Business Park in Seattle, Washington. Both firms are owned by Paul and Suzanne Marshall. The Marshalls had outstanding commercial loans from Frontier Bank. The bank dispatched one of its employees, Suzette Gould, to North Kitsap to “spread Christmas cheer” to the Marshalls as an expression of appreciation for their business. Approaching the entry to Road Rider, Gould tripped over a concrete “wheel stop” and fell, suffering a broken arm and a dislocated elbow. The stop was not clearly visible, it had not been painted a contrasting color, and it was not marked with a sign. Gould had not been aware of the stop before she tripped over it. Is North Kitsap liable to Gould for negligence? Explain.
5-8.Defamation. Jonathan Martin, an offensive lineman with the Miami Dolphins, abruptly quit the team and checked himself into a hospital seeking psychological treatment. Later, he explained that he left because of persistent taunting from other Dolphins players. The National Football League hired attorney Theodore Wells to investigate Martin’s allegations of bullying. After receiving Wells’s report, the Dolphins fired their offensive line coach, James Turner. Turner was a prominent person on the Dolphins team, and during his career he chose to thrust himself further into the public arena. He was the subject of articles discussing his coaching philosophy, and the focus of one season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” showcasing his coaching style. Turner filed a suit in a federal district court against Wells, alleging defamation. He charged that Wells failed to properly analyze certain information. Is Turner likely to succeed on his claim? Explain.
5-9.A Question of Ethics—The IDDR Approach and Wrongful Interference. Julie Whitchurch was an employee of Vizant Technologies, LLC. After she was fired, she created a website falsely accusing Vizant of fraud and mismanagement to discourage others from doing business with the company. Vizant filed a suit in a federal district court against her, alleging wrongful interference with a business relationship. The court concluded that Whitchurch’s online criticism of Vizant adversely affected its employees and operations, forced it to accept reduced compensation to obtain business, and deterred outside investment. The court ordered Whitchurch to stop her online efforts to discourage others from doing business with Vizant.
1,How does the motivation for Whitchurch’s conduct differ from other cases that involve wrongful interference? What does this suggest about the ethics in this situation? Discuss.

2.How does the motivation for Whitchurch’s conduct differ from other cases that involve wrongful interference? What does this suggest about the ethics in this situation? Discuss.


5-1. Richard, an employee of Dun Construction Corp, had an accident while delivering materials to a construction site. Dun, the company owner, fired Richard after a heated discussion as it was his second accident in six months. Dun then wrote a letter to the union of which Richard is a member and to all other construction companies in the community stating that Richard is the “worst driver in the city” and that “anyone who hires him is asking for legal liability.” Richard sued Dun alleging libel on the basis of the statements made in the letters.

In this case, Richard could potentially succeed in his lawsuit for libel against Dun if he can prove that the statements made in the letter were false and caused harm to his reputation. To establish a claim for libel, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant published a false statement about the plaintiff, the statement was communicated to a third party, and the statement caused harm to the plaintiff’s reputation.

Here, Dun’s statement that Richard is the “worst driver in the city” and that “anyone who hires him is asking for legal liability” may be considered defamatory because it implies that Richard is incompetent and unsafe to hire. Furthermore, Dun communicated this statement to a third party by sending letters to the union and other construction companies.

However, Dun may argue that the statement is true and therefore not defamatory. Additionally, Dun may argue that the statement was made in the heat of the moment and was not intended to be taken as a factual assertion. Nevertheless, Richard may still have a viable claim for libel and should consult with an attorney to assess the strength of his case.

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