David Barnett, a tenured professor of philosophy at University of Colorado (CU), has recently sued the university on grounds of defamation in regards to a sexual assault complaint that resulted in a board movement to terminate his contract.
According to the Daily Camera, Barnett claims Phil DiStefano, CU’s chancellor, made a false claim that Barnett retaliated against a student who stated she was sexually assaulted by a former student. In response to the claims, the CU Board of Regents moved to terminate Barnett, inciting him to seek $2 million dollar settlement for defamation.
Not only are education-related defamation suits rare, but they can be difficult to justify in court. The plaintiff must show both how the accuser defamed him or her and that it was done with actual malice, or intent to harm to one’s character. In addition, because the impetus for the Board’s actions was a $825,000 sexual assault settlement, the court maybe less sympathetic to Barnett and his monetary demands.
Utilizing a private investigator can provide assistance for either proving or disproving defamation.
When investigating a defamation case, professionals gather intelligence and additional witnesses that can support your position. In David Barnett’s case, an investigator would seek to find evidence that would prove these main points:
- Published – The defamatory statements must have reached an audience through slander (spoken) or libel (written). Investigators would proceed by looking into his wrongful termination, and the process in which this occurred. In this case, a video, as orated by DiStefano, was released to students and faculty to provide further explanation. By making this video available to the public, it could cause irreparable damage to his reputation.
- False – Defamatory statement needs to be incorrect or false to be proven as defamation. Here investigators would discretely question those close to the case, such as other professors or people within the philosophy department.
- Injurious – An investigator would gather evidence to prove Barnett’s damaged reputation. For instance Barnett is only one of three tenured professors who’ve been terminated during CU’s history.
- Unprivileged – A professional investigator would prove that no part of the defamatory statement would fall under privilege, or specific instances where a false statement couldn’t be used for a defamation suit.
Due to the complications and complexities of defamation, hiring a firm like Lauth Investigations could be an essential first step in finding peace of mind and reclaiming a tarnished reputation.