Insurer Must Defend 'Douche' Defamation Suit, Judge Says
Calling someone a "douche" may be bad manners but it does not give an insurance company grounds to disavow a policy protecting against defamation claims, a state judge has ruled. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Judith J. Gische ruled that because calling someone a "douche" or "douche bag" is an opinion, not a statement of provable fact, the Graphic Arts Mutual Insurance Co. must pay the legal costs of public relations firm owner Drew Kerr, who was sued by a rival.
The insurance coverage dispute arose after Kerr, according to an affidavit he submitted, sought to criticize a technique used by a competitor, Ronn Torossian. Mimicking Torossian's practice of purchasing domain names containing the names of competitors, Kerr purchased the domain "www.ronntorossianpr." On the site was posted a photo of a package of "Summer's Eve Douche." Torossian's company, 5W Public Relations, according to its Web site, is the 21st largest public relations firm in the nation.
"To the extent that Mr. Kerr's action implied a statement that Mr. Torossian was "a 'douche' or 'douche bag,'" Gische wrote in Four Corners Communications Inc. v. Graphic Arts Mutual Insurance Company, 601166/09, it is an opinion which "is not capable of being proven false." Based on that finding, Gische found that the insurance company could not rely on a provision of the policy exempting defamation coverage of statements made "with knowledge of falsity."