Tom Diehl did his homework, immersing himself in the regulatory minutiae of trash. He pored over environmental studies. And after publicly stating his case against a proposed garbage holding pen in his suburban St. Louis community, he won. What Diehl did not anticipate was getting sued for his civic activism, reports the Chicago Tribune. The trash company has filed a $5 million libel and slander suit, alleging Diehl’s and other opponents’ characterization of the firm as “trash terrorists” suggests the company has killed Americans and intends to kill more.
In a nation of sometimes-outrageous talk, where nothing is more American than speaking out at a public hearing, attorneys who follow defamation suits say the number of defamation claims against individuals who do speak out is growing. Politicians are suing citizens as well as other politicians. Businesses seeking approval of development projects are suing people who oppose them. Attorneys who follow the suits say the trend resembles Goliath pummeling David: People with the means to sue are filing suit against individuals who don’t keep lawyers on retainer.