Peter Sloan says he is William Shatner’s long lost son. Shatner denies it. As a result, Sloan filed a lawsuit—and not for what you think.
Mainstream journalists are reporting a paternity suit was filed against Shatner. But this is untrue, Sloan filed a lawsuit for defamation.
Sloan, who is a Florida resident, would likely be barred by Florida’s statute of limitations if he wanted to file a paternity suit.
Florida law requires that paternity actions be filed before the child reaches the age of 23. Sloan is 59 years old.
That leaves Sloan with hardly any options to ever confirm whether Shatner is in fact his biological father. Therefore, if Sloan wants genetic confirmation, he would have to employ some other legal strategy. And that could be the motivation behind filing a defamation lawsuit.
Bringing a defamation lawsuit asking for a DNA test to determine the veracity of Shatner’s public denial of paternity, may creatively achieve that end.
But individuals who have always wanted to know the identity of their biological parents should not rush down to the court and file a defamation lawsuit. Sloan’s lawsuit appears to be somewhat viable only because Shatner publically denied paternity and Shatner’s publicists told a major newspaper that Sloan was a fraud, and the newspaper published those statements. And that’s the core of a defamation lawsuit, publication of a false statement that causes damages.
Publically calling Sloan a fraud was probably a big mistake. Even if he is not actually Shatner’s son. Labeling Sloan a fraud implies that Sloan is a criminal who intentionally deceived people about Shatner being his father. That’s an extreme statement.
What if Sloan reasonably believes Shatner is his father but he’s just mistaken? Does that constitute fraud?
Sloan’s lawsuit alleges those statements are false and damaged him to the tune of $170 million. He says the statements have harmed his efforts to produce a film and earn income by branding himself as Shatner’s son.
Sloan, who also uses the stage name “Peter Shatner” specifically points out that Twitter terminated his account for violating Twitter’s policy against impersonation. The lawsuit explains Sloan’s IMDB Pro account was similarly terminated.