An attorney can sue an insurance adjustor for libel when the adjustor said that the attorney “just takes people’s money” and that his clients receive less than what the insurance company offered. The court reasoned that the statements were more than mere opinion.
The Virginia Supreme Court reversed the trial court that had thrown out the complaint by the attorney on the belief that the insurance adjustor’s statements were merely statements of opinion and not actionable as libel per se. The attorney argued that the statements were not opinions “because evidence could be presented at trial that Tronfeld is competent in his profession, that claimants did receive more money after hiring Tronfeld as opposed to what the insurance company offered, and that Tronfeld’s clients received a measurable value for his services in return for the fee he receives.
Collectively or separately, Tronfeld argues Schmitt’s statements are provably false.” The court agreed that “Schmitt’s statements ‘are capable of being proven true or false’ and thus are actionable in defamation.” The Supreme Court sent the case back for trial.
Tronfeld v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, Virginia Supreme Court No. 52635, November 3, 2006.