Plaintiffs were accused by public officials of toxic dumping. As a result, the local newspaper published a series of articles with headlines accusing plaintiffs of dumping. The accusations were also discussed on local television and on news radio. In response, plaintiffs commenced an action seeking, among other relief, a Declaratory Judgment stating that they were not responsible. Daytree at Cortland Square v Walsh, 2018 WL 3869247 (August 15, 2018).
Defendants moved to dismiss the Declaratory Judgment action arguing that there is no such claim because a declaratory judgment is a remedy for certain types of claims, but it is not an independent claim. The court agreed. The court also concluded that even if there was such a claim, declaratory relief would not be appropriate in this case for two reasons. First, courts do not give advisory opinions. Second, these issues were being addressed in other litigation, so a declaration would not settle the matter.
Plaintiffs had what appeared to be a creative means of protecting their reputation. Denials in the press are not often effective, but plaintiffs thought asking a judge to say they did not do it would be effective. Unfortunately, our legal system is does not allow the courts to give advisory opinions. You cannot go to court and just ask who is right. Instead, you go to court with a claim saying someone did something wrong to me and I am entitled to a remedy.