A New York Judge has ruled that actor Alec Baldwin’s critical comments of another man’s driving are not slander.
This dispute began in November 2018 when Baldwin and Wojciech Cieszkowski got into a publicized dispute over a Manhattan parking spot. Cieszkowski allegedly stole the parking space that Baldwin’s wife was saving and Baldwin was eventually arrested after Cieszkowski told police that Baldwin punched him him in the jaw, an allegation that Baldwin denies.
After being charged with third-degree attempted assault and second-degree harassment, Baldwin appeared on various talk shows, including The Ellen Show and The Howard Stern Show and discussed the altercation.
Cieszkowski then sued Baldwin for assault, battery and slander per se. The slander claim was based on comments made by Baldwin on the talk shows that included, “I thought he was going to run my wife over with his car when he was stealing my parking spot.”
In a motion to dismiss the slander claim, Baldwin argued that Cieszkowski was “trying to turn a minor altercation over a parking spot into a multimillion dollar lottery ticket.” Judge David Benjamin Cohen agreed. He held that under the relevant requirements, slander per se claims require that a person be accused of a “serious crime.” Citing a 1992 appellate decision in Liberman v Gelstein, Judge Cohen stated that crimes rising to that level include murder, burglary, larceny, arson, rape and kidnapping.
“Even putting aside the Liberman wording, (and their easy comparison to this matter) that traffic violations do not constitute a serious crime in this slander per se context, crimes of a very serious nature means crimes that would exclude a person from society,” writes Cohen.
Further, Cohen finds that the statements aren’t actionable because they were both hyperbole and Baldwin’s opinion.
The rest of the case is proceeding against Baldwin.