Are Mrs. Vogel's speeches and actions protected as "free speech"?

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Drama of the Law: Free Speech: Constitutional Issues
Free Speech: Constitutional Issues

Mrs. Vogel's Lemon

Answer Guide for Discussion Questions
Are Mrs. Vogel's speeches and actions protected as "free speech"?
Mrs. Vogel is in a public, not private area, i.e., on a public road and not on Rally Motors' lot. She is entitled under the First Amendment to express her opinions in a public place. The lemon on top of her car is an example of "symbolic speech" also protected under the First Amendment. However, she may lose her bullhorn if it creates a distraction and is dangerous to traffic.

Are Mrs. Vogel's speeches and actions here protected under the First Amendment?
Again, Mrs. Vogel has a right to express her opinion. Rally Motors may claim that she is defaming their business. To which Mrs. Vogel will claim that "truth is a defense" because her car is a lemon. However, Mrs. Vogel can make that claim only for her car, and her generalizations amount to a "willful and wanton disregard of the truth" exposing her to a defamation claim.
Additionally, when she successfully dissuaded the customer from entering the Rally Motors lot, she was on private property and wrongfully interfered with Rally business.

What should Herman do? What legal rights does Mrs. Vogel have? How should Herman and Mrs. Vogel address their problems?
Mrs. Vogel does have a right to complain about her car, and to have it repaired. She exceeded that right in her methods of complaining. However, instead of resorting to litigation, here is a chance for both parties to solve a problem. Herman should persevere and bring Mrs. Vogel in and talk about a substitution for her car.

Copyright 2004 South-Western, a division of Cengage Learning, Inc. Cengage Learning is a trademark used herein under license.

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