17 October 2011
Yeagle v. Collegiate Times
Virginia Supreme Court, 1998
Facts: Sharon Yeagle was the assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs at the Polytechnic Institute and State University. Her job included aiding students in their applications to the Governor’s Fellows Program, an academic honors program. The Collegiate Times, the university’s newspaper, printed an article that included a large print block quotation that described Yeagle as the “Director of Butt Licking”. Yeagle sued the newspaper claiming that the phrase defamed her since that the act described is a violation of the state sodomy statue, thus accusing Yeagle of a crime that she didn’t commit. She claimed that the phrase harmed her reputation by associating her with a lack of integrity and deviancy. The trial court dismissed the case claiming that the phrase was not defamation, and Yeagle appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court (Calhoun). Issue: The issue stands whether or not the phrase could reasonably be interpreted as a factual accusation about Yeagle, and thus would be considered defamation (Calhoun). Holding: The Virginia Supreme Court found that the phrase was not a factual accusation, thus it does not fall under defamation. The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court (“Yeagle”). Reasoning: The phrase could not reasonably be considered as a factual accusation but rather as an opinion meant to be humorous. It was an intentional exaggeration not intended to harm Yeagle’s reputation, and no reasonable person would interpret literal meaning. (“Yeagle”).
Calhoun, Jeffrey W., and Susan S. Samuelson. Legal Environment. 4th ed. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning, 2011. Print. "Yeagle v. Collegiate Times." Virginia Coalition for Open Government. 27 Feb. 1998. Web. 17 Oct. 2011.