Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib has gotten an apology via Twitter from the Dallas Police Department for its erroneous claim that Talib had been arrested on Sunday. It’s possible Talib may want something more.
A potential civil lawsuit hasn’t been ruled out yet, and Talib has plenty of time to decide whether to pursue a claim of defamation arising from the mistaken identification of his brother, Yaqub, as Aqib on the Twitter account of Dallas Police Major Max Geron.
Geron has explained the mistake by claiming that the original email message to him indicated that the person arrested with the last name Talib played in the NFL. That became Aqib Talib — and it became blared loudly by Geron as “BREAKING” news, via tweets that as of this posting Geron inexplicably has not yet deleted.
(Here’s some free legal advice, Max: Delete them.)
Because Aqib Talib is a public figure, the “actual malice” standard applies. He’d need to prove that the Dallas Police Department knew the claim was false or acted with reckless disregard to the truth or falsity of the claim that was made.
Even if “actual malice” can be proven, damages would flow from assessing the harm to Talib’s reputation. To determine the harm to his reputation, his baseline reputation would have to be determined. Which would result in all the stuff he’s allegedly and/or actually done being admitted into evidence and potentially poisoning a jury’s view of Talib.
Another issue that would require legal research relates to the concept of sovereign immunity. An outdated “king can do no wrong” notion that gradually has yielded in the U.S. via, at a minimum, the availability of insurance, Talib’s lawyers would need to be sure that a claim for defamation can be made against a public police department.
Ultimately, Talib’s best play likely will be to lump it and move on. The aggressive pursuit of defamation lawsuits can lead to all sorts of unintended consequences, as Roger Clemens once learned.