The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on Wednesday affirmed the dismissal of an Ohio woman’s defamation lawsuit against actor James Woods.
The suit comes as a result of an exchange on Twitter during the 2016 election. In 2016 James Woods reposted a tweet that had side-by-side comparisons of Portia Boulger, the plaintiff and a member of Women for Bernie, and the so-called Trump Nazi, a woman giving a Nazi salute at a rally for Donald Trump. Woods’ post contained a caption that read “So-called #Trump ‘Nazi’ is a #berniesanders agitator/operative?” The woman giving the salute was shortly after identified as Birgitt Peterson, a Trump supporter living in Yorkville, Illinois.
Boulger filed this suit against Woods claiming the actor committed defamation and invasion of privacy against her. Woods filed motion to dismiss for lack of service and motion to dismiss on the pleadings. The court found service lacking but found that Woods conduct had waived personal jurisdiction as a defense due to his conduct in filing the motion on the pleadings. Nonetheless, the court granted the motion to dismiss on the pleadings under the Ohio “innocent construction rule” which says that if a statement is subject to more than one meaning and at least one of the meanings is innocent, the statement should be construed to be innocent.