Boyce & Isley, PLLC V. Cooper and the Confusion of North Carolina Libel Law

BY Hugh Stevens

Given that hyperbole, distortion, exaggeration and “spin” are fundamental ingredients of political campaign advertisements, it is not unusual for candidates to complain that their opponents’ ads are misleading, or even false. Occasionally, candidates take their complaints to the courthouse by filing libel suits against their opponents. Most such suits that have been filed in North Carolina have had no effect on state law, but one case has left North Carolina’s unique formulation of libel per se in disarray and stretched the state’s unfair and deceptive trade practices statute beyond recognition. This article analyzes the North Carolina Court of Appeals’ decision in Boyce & Isley, PLLC v. Cooper, and explains how the panel misapplied both common and statutory law in reinstating a claim for libel grounded in a political television advertisement. It concludes by forecasting how North Carolina law will be impaired if the decision is not repudiated.

DOWNLOAD PDF | 82 N.C. L. Rev. 2017 (2004)