Phoebe turns to legal team after discovering phantom faxer - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Phoebe turns to legal team after discovering phantom faxer

August 19, 2004

Albany-- Phoebe Putney Hospital has filed a defamation lawsuit over the infamous "Phoebe Factoids."

But what does it take to win a defamation case?

To make it easier, think of defamation as a parent. Defamation's kids would be libel and slander. Libel and slander are similar, but there are some key differences.

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital claims its reputation was damaged by more than two dozen faxes, called Phoebe Factoids, sent around the community. The hospital sued the accused faxer, Charles Rehberg, claiming defamation.

    • Their lawsuit reads: "The information in the facsimiles (faxes) created and sent by Defendant is false and malicious defamation of another expressed in writing and constitutes libel."

Libel means something is expressed in print, writing and even pictures. The Phoebe Factoids include all three, and they were sent by fax.

But Phoebe Putney Hospital has to prove the information is false.

"Libel is a written statement that injures a reputation and it's got to be false." Albany Attorney Tom Langstaff is not involved in the Phoebe Factoid lawsuit, but he says if the jury decides the defendant is telling the truth, the plaintiff may not have a case. "Truth is a complete defense to any defamation action. Truth is a complete defense."

Phoebe does have one up because they have the paperwork to prove the faxes were sent, but the hospital will have to prove that what's written on these papers is wrong, which is going to be a lengthy task.

Slander is verbal, and usually tougher to prove. It sometimes becomes a "he said she said" situation.

Langstaff says these sort of cases are not common in Dougherty County.

posted at 5:10PM by dave.miller@walb.com

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