Today the Supreme Court of Texas issued an opinion that we at D Magazine warmly welcome and do hereby bring to the public’s attention.
In 2013, we published this story about a man named José Reyes (subtitle: “The Party Crasher Who Duped Dallas Society”), a Dallas Symphony Orchestra volunteer whom the organization had fired. Reyes claimed we’d defamed him, and he sued. After he appealed a lower court’s ruling to the Fifth District and lost, he took it to the state’s supreme court. Here’s the case. Here’s a picture of our Haynes and Boone lawyer, Jason Bloom, arguing the case in the Texas Supreme Court, with very bored teenagers looking on. Here’s the ruling that was handed down today. It’s lengthy and abstruse. There are matters involving the DSO that further complicated it. But here’s the meat:
We now turn finally to Reyes’ petition complaining that the court of appeals erred in holding that D Magazine was entitled to summary judgment on his claims for defamation, conspiracy to defame, and negligence, and in refusing to reverse summary judgment in favor of D Magazine on his claim of defamation per se.
The court of appeals considered every one of the 15 statements in the D Magazine article of which Reyes complained and concluded that they were either true, or rhetorical hyperbole, or subjective opinion, or otherwise nonverifiable. None, the court summarized, “qualifies as a false statement of verifiable fact,” and therefore none is defamatory. “[S]tatements that are not verifiable as false cannot form the basis of a defamation claim.” Reyes disagrees with the court of appeals’ conclusion, but only for reasons the court fully considered. We need not reiterate the court’s analysis here. Having carefully reviewed it, along with Reyes’ arguments, we conclude that the court reached essentially the correct result. …
Reyes argues that the article damaged his reputation by portraying him as a trespasser, deceitful, and a fraud. With respect to portraying him as a trespasser, the court of appeals determined that Reyes’ claim was for defamation per se, on which the trial court granted summary judgment for D Magazine. An interlocutory order granting summary judgment is not subject to appeal. Reyes may yet seek review of the trial court’s ruling when a final judgment is rendered. With respect to Reyes’ complaints that the article portrays him as deceitful and a fraud, those broad generalizations are not supported by the individual statements that Reyes attended events uninvited, that he blustered his way into photos over others’ objections, and that he misrepresented his true role in charities he supported. Those statements were facts and cannot fairly be read to suggest that Reyes was deceitful and a fraud generally. We agree with the court of appeals’ conclusion that while “the Article repeated many personal criticisms of Reyes in a manner that undoubtedly hurt his feelings, … none of these statements can support a defamation claim against D Magazine.”
Finally, Reyes argues that the court of appeals erred in concluding that the Orchestra and D Magazine were entitled to summary judgment on his claim that they conspired to defame him. But the only way he alleges they did so was in the article, which we have concluded was not defamatory. Without defamation, there can be no conspiracy to defame.
So there you have it. Reyes has been handed another defeat. BUT. There’s a “but” here. Reyes has the right to appeal this dismissal of the claims that the trial court dismissed three years ago. It would be a waste of time. He’d be foolish to do. So I’m sure he will.