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Defamation ruling by arbitrator is upheld on behalf of school superintendent

In Hope-Jackson v. Washington, a school superintendent achieved an arbitration award against a school board member who placed defamatory material on a website.  The arbitrator awarded $360,000.00 in per se damages and $140,000.00 in exemplary (or punitive) damages.  The board member appealed, arguing that the subject comments were merely "hyperbole"  and that the arbitrator erred in interpreting the statute of limitations.

The higher court noted that the trial judge was prohibited from examining the fact-finding of the arbitrator, and therefore could not speculate precisely why the arbitrator concluded as he or she did.  The court did take away the exemplary damages, however, because the victim failed to make the mandatory demand for retraction.

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