Libel lawsuit over 2017 viral carriage horse video ends in activists’ favor

Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 5:56 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 5, 2022 at 9:24 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A viral video of a carriage horse laying on a street in Charleston sparked a years-long lawsuit, and now a judge has granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants in the libel case.

In 2017, animal rights activists posted a video on social media of a horse named ‘Big John’ on the ground of a downtown street.

The video featured captions questioning the working conditions and practices of the company, Charleston Carriage Works LLC. The company is arguing the post is misleading.

Charleston Carriage Works LLC sued the Charleston Animal Society and Charleston Carriage Horse Advocates and a few people associated with the organizations, saying the post was slander and interfered with their business.

Documents from the summary judgment say, “none of the identified publications contain actionable defamation” and that the activists’ posts are protected by free speech and discussion. The filing paperwork also notes many of the points the activists make are “matters of opinion not capable of being proven to be false.”

An attorney for Charleston Carriage Works, Tommy Goldstein, released a statement calling the Charleston Animal Society a political PR giant and saying the company will continue to pursue the truth.

The Master-in-Equity’s decision is only the first in a series of precise steps leading to a final adjudication. It is important to note that no jury has yet evaluated the facts in this case. The Charleston Animal Society has over 28 million dollars in assets and receives more than $5500 from Charleston County taxpayers every single day. They are a political and PR giant, yet we are determined to pursue the truth despite their well-funded attempts to prevail via attrition and misrepresentation.

A judge denied the company’s two motions to reconsider on Tuesday. The Charleston Animal Society is planning a news conference next week about the judge’s decision in their favor.

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