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The Number of Facebook "Likes" Held Admissible as Evidence in a Libel case


In the case of Ebersole v. Kline-Perry (Case No. 1:12cv26) a District Court in Virginia has denied a claim by the defendant that evidence of the number of "likes" their Facebook page received was inadmissable in a libel case.

The plaintiff, who operates a pet care center, sued the defendant, who owns a horse-breeding farm, for libel after the defendant posted a letter to her own Facebook page accusing the plaintiff of animal cruelty.  A jury awarded the plaintiff $15,000.00 in compensatory damages as well as $60,000.00 in punitive damages.  The defendant challenged the jury's verdict stating that the jury should not have been allowed to hear evidence of the more than 5,000 "likes" the defendant's page received on Facebook.  The court concluded that the evidence was properly admitted.

In the ruling, the court stated that the number of "likes" the defendant's page received was proof of the popularity of the post and the increased the number of viewings the accusitory letter received. Also, the disputed evidence was "...germane as to the defendant's intent in posting the letter - namely to reach a large audience," the court stated. 

Although the evidence was found to be admissable, the court did find the award of $60,000.00 in punitive damages excessive and reduced it to $15,000.00.  It also afforded the plaintiff the option of requesting a new trial. 

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