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A Daycare Defamed?

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Grounds for a lawsuit -- or First Amendment infringement?


The Nurturing Center Inc. in Queens

momlogic's Vivian: Both the New York Daily News and the New York Post report that the head of a Queens, N.Y. daycare is suing a former parent for defamation because she suspects the parent hung flyers all over Queens that called her place of business, "The Torturing Center."

In 2008, angry mom Kecia Pitt took The Nurturing Center to small claims court to refund her 15-month-old son's tuition after she pulled him out due to suspected neglect. Among her complaints: solo stints in a chair during crying jags and an entire day in the same diaper.

Pitt eventually won her $1,200 tuition back, but now Beverly Davis, the head of the daycare center, has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Pitt for defamation, claiming her flyer also read, "Is your child often sick, have a lot of diaper rashes and cry out at night? Because they don't clean, change the babies or comfort them when they cry. The Nurturing Center is one of the WORST daycare centers I ever sent my son to." Davis wants Pitt to apologize and "retract her claims," but Pitt denies ever posting the flyers.

Here's the thing: Because of the protection First Amendment laws provide, defamation or libel can be awfully hard to prove in court. Opinions alone don't comprise defamation, but calling a statement an opinion (e.g., "It is my opinion that the daycare is a torture chamber") can still be considered defamation if the statement itself is provably true or provably false. Unless there's tangible proof (i.e. fingerprints) that the mom is responsible for the flyers, it's doubtful Davis is going to walk away with the bucks Pitt might or might not even have. Think about what would happen if celebrities chased down each and every slanderous word uttered about them in the media: They'd hardly get the chance to work, let alone lead the torrid lives people speculate about!

Now, if these things happened to my kid, I'd be so pissed that I'd be awfully tempted to scream from the rooftops about how badly the place sucked. Wouldn't you?

What do you guys think? Was this woman within her First Amendment rights to voice her opinion -- however old-school the platform? Or, if she did indeed do it, should she apologize for her actions? I highly doubt any single mom who needs daycare even has a million beans to cough up! Please share your thoughts!


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