Shakespeare used some of the most offensive language found in all of literature. In terms of language, you may reasonably conclude Bill Whiteheart can be every bit as offensive as Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s graphic language has been memorialized in more than fifty iconic plays. Whiteheart’s language has been memorialized in one ignominious fact situation described in a written opinion by the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Shakespeare’s venom was directed at characters created in Shakespeare’s imagination–although sometimes his characters had real life antecedents. Whiteheart made no pretense about the real life target of his invective. The subject of Whiteheart’s ill advised attack successfully sued Whiteheart and received substantial damages for the injuries she incurred. Whiteheart’s first mistake was to defame the plaintiff. His second mistake was to go to trial. His third mistake was to appeal the jury verdict to the North Carolina Court of Appeals where the whole sordid vendetta had the potential to be memorialized in the form of a written opinion. The whole matter could have disappeared with a settlement prior to trial; however, there was no settlement. The matter is now a ubiquitous internet record that will forever record what Shakespeare called “the evil that men do…” that will live after them.
The Material That Follows Is Explicit And Is Not Suitable For Young Readers Or Persons Offended By Foul Language
Two law suits were filed against William H. Whiteheard d/b/a Whiteheart Ourtdoor Advertising Company. Please read the entire Court of Appeals opinion at the website shown below. Context is important!
173 N.C. App. 89; 618 S.E.2d 739.
One suit was filed by Beroth Oil Co. and the other suit was filed by Darlene Joy Payne, et al. Both suits were filed on December 20, 2001 and were later consolidated for purposes of trial. Defendant Whiteheard appealed from judgments of the trial court entered upon jury verdicts finding him liable for slander of title, unfair trade practices, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, libel per se and punitive damages, and awarding plaintiff Beroth Oil Company $213,500.00 in damages and plaintiffs American Advertising Consultants, Inc., SkyAd, LLC, and Darlene Joy Payne $450,000.00 in damages. Other amounts were also awarded. The appellate court summarized the plaintiffs’ complaints, in part, as follows at page 743:
The complaint contained substantially the same allegations as that filed by Beroth, with the following pertinent additions: according to the complaint, defendant made defamatory statements about Payne and her companies to third persons, calling her a “lease jumper,” a term with extremely negative connotations in the billboard industry, and a “billboard whore.” Defendant also published to members of the outdoor sign industry a 26 March 2001 letter in which he stated that Payne’s actions were unprofessional, unethical and despicable. He also called Payne a “bitch” and sent a facsimile to persons in the outdoor advertising industry “alerting” them to potential “lease-jumping” by Payne. Payne alleged she incurred damages as a result of defendant’s defamatory statements, her inability to erect a sign on the site and obtain the NCDOT permit, and in defending the Iredell County civil action. The complaint set forth claims against defendant for malicious prosecution of civil action, abuse of process, libel and slander per se and per quod, and unfair and deceptive practices.
With respect to the preceding allegations of defamatory statements by Whiteheart, the appellate court concluded as follows:
Finally, we conclude there was sufficient evidence to support the jury verdict for libel. Actionable libel includes the publication of written statements to third persons which tend to impeach a person in that person’s trade or profession or to subject one to ridicule, contempt or disgrace. Renwick v. News & Observer Publishing Co.,310 N.C. 312, 317, 312 S.E.2d 405, 409 (1984). Plaintiffs presented evidence that defendant made defamatory written statements about Payne and her companies to third persons, calling her a “lease jumper,” “bitch” and “billboard whore.” Defendant also published to members of the outdoor sign industry a 26 March 2001 letter in which he stated that Payne’s actions were unprofessional, unethical and despicable. The trial court did not err in denying defendant’s motion for directed verdict on these claims.
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