Friday, January 27, 2017

Essay I

Zervos v. Trump is an action filed against President-Elect (now President) Donald J. Trump by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice. Zervos alleges that Trump sexually assaulted her in a hotel room in Florida in 2007. Her claim, however, is for defamation. Her theory, as revealed in the allegations of the Complaint, is that Trump, as a presidential candidate, repeatedly and publicly denied allegations of assault (by Zervos and other women) and claimed those claims were fabricated. In doing so, he was calling Zervos a liar. And since her accusations of assault were true, his calling her a liar was false, thereby constituting defamation per se.

On October 12, 2016, around the time that Ms. Zervos publicly spoke about her alleged assault and prior to many of Trump’s denials described in the Complaint, Natasha Stoynoff, a journalist at People Magazine, publicly reported that Mr. Trump had sexually assault her in 2005.

Ms. Stoynoff wants to bring a similar action against Mr. Trump for defamation. Stoynoff will assert a similar theory as in Zervos: Trump’s denials of the assaults and his statements (quoted in the Zervos Complaint) that reports of an assault were fabricated labeled Stoynoff a liar. Because Trump did assault Stoynoff, her statements were true, meaning Trump labeling her a liar was false, thereby constituting defamation per se.

Can Stoynoff join as a plaintiff in this single lawsuit with Zervos? If Stoynoff does not join and files a separate action (in the same federal district), is there anything the courts or parties can do to make litigation of the two cases more streamlined and efficient?

(For purposes of this essay, treat this action and Stoynoff’s potential action as having been filed in federal district court and subject to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Also for purposes of this essay, consider and work with all the facts and statements quoted in the Zervos Complaint. In addition, accept that Trump made other statements, not quoted in the Zervos Complaint, explicitly denying Stoynoff’s accusations and stating that Stoynoff had fabricated her claims.)

This is due at the beginning of class on Wednesday, January 31.