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A question mark just saved James Woods from a $3 million lawsuit - here's how

Actor James Woods beat a defamation lawsuit stemming from a tweet he posted during the presidential election based on his addition of a question mark at the end of his missive. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

Actor and conservative James Woods beat a $3 million lawsuit - and he won because of one little question mark.

Here's what happened:

During the 2016 presidential election, Woods tweeted a post that misidentified a Bernie Sanders supporter as a Nazi. The woman who was identified in the tweet then sued him for defamation and invasion-of-privacy.

His tweet read, "So-called #Trump ‘Nazi’ is a #BernieSanders agitator/operative?"

He posted a photo from the Chicago Tribune of a woman making the Nazi salute, alongside a photo of Portia Boulger, a Bernie Sanders supporter. Woods apparently believed they were the same woman.

Later he tweeted in recognition of his mistake.

"Various followers have stated that the Nazi salute individual and the #Bernie campaign woman are NOT the same person," he said. 

Saved by a question mark

Woods' lawyer argued that he hadn't made a definitive statement, and it was evidenced by the question mark at the end of his sentence.

The judge agreed.

"Were it not for the question mark at the end of the text, this would be an easy case," wrote the judge. "But the question mark cannot be ignored."

"The vast majority of courts to consider questions as potential defamatory statements have found them not to be assertions of fact," he continued. "Rather, a question indicates a defendant’s lack of definitive knowledge about the issue and invites the reader to consider various possibilities."

One last thing…
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