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Libel: Summary Judgment

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Presentation on theme: "Libel: Summary Judgment"— Presentation transcript:

1 Libel: Summary Judgment
Summary Judgment - a judgment is granted to a party in a lawsuit when the pleadings and other materials in the case disclose no material issue of fact between the parties All facts of the case must be agreed upon for a summary judgment to be made

2 Libel: Summary Judgment
Procedure for Summary Judgment: Plaintiff makes initial written allegations to the court Defendant may argue for a summary judgment if: The plaintiff has failed to prove what is necessary to sustain the libel suit There is a legal defense that blocks the suit

3 Libel: Summary Judgment
Procedure for Summary Judgment: Court determines if a reasonable juror, acting reasonably, could find in favor of the plaintiff If “yes” could find in favor of the plaintiff, case goes to trial If “no” could not find in favor of the plaintiff, a summary judgment is granted

4 Libel: Statute of Limitations
Statue of Limitations – a law that requires that a legal action must begin within a specified period of time For libel, statutes of limitations vary from state to state Most often one or two years

5 Libel: Statute of Limitations
A Statute of Limitations Begins When: The material is published or broadcast for the first time For magazines, the statute of limitations begins the day the magazine is distributed to a substantial portion of its audience, not the date printed on the publication Republication?

6 Libel: Jurisdiction A libel suit can be brought in any state in which the libel has been circulated regularly Venue Shopping – choosing a state that has laws favorable to your legal action Keeton v. Hustler (1984) She’s in New York, Hustler is in Ohio, she sues in New Hampshire (6 year statute of limitations) Upheld as not only the subject, but the readers are damaged.

7 Libel: Jurisdiction and the Internet
The U.S. Supreme Court has passed on at least three cases involving libel jurisdiction and the Internet Lower courts are still sorting out where Internet-based libel suits can or should be heard

8 Privileged Communications
Absolute Privilege - immunity from libel suits granted to government officials and others based on remarks uttered or written as part of their official duties

9 Privileged Communications
Qualified Privilege – protection granted to journalists reporting on privileged communication A media outlet is protected by qualified privilege if: The material comes directly from the report of a privileged proceeding or document The material is a fair and accurate summary published or broadcast as a report of the proceedings or documents

10 Privileged Communications
Neutral Reportage - it is permissible to publish an accurate account of information about a public figure from a reliable source even when the reporter doubts its truth Only upheld in a handful of courts; not the legal standard nationwide Must be newsworthy or associated with public controversy Must be made by a prominent and responsible source Must be accurate and neutral Must be about a public official or figure

11 Protection of Opinion Rhetorical Hyperbole - language so exaggerated the reader or listener knows it is only an opinion

12 Protection of Opinion Milkovich Standard – pure opinion is a statement incapable of being proven true or false

13 Protection of Opinion The Ollman Test:
Can the statement be proved true or false? What is the common or ordinary meaning of the words? What is the journalistic context of the work? What is the social context of the remark?

14 Protection of Opinion Fair Comment and Criticism
The common law defense for opinion. Lawyers tend to rely on Constitutional defenses now. Is it an opinion? Is it a subject of legitimate public concern? Is there a factual basis for the comment?

15 Libel Defenses Consent
An individual cannot sue for libel if he/she gave permission for the publication of the defamatory material

16 Libel Defenses Right of Reply
An individual can libel the one who libeled him/her but it must be equal in magnitude and effect Not accepted by many courts

17 Damages Actual damages - damages for actual injury to reputation
standing the community monetary loss personal humiliation mental suffering and anguish

18 Damages Special Damages – a specific monetary loss as the result of libel Most common in trade libel

19 Damages Presumed damages – damages a plaintiff can receive without proof of injury or harm Usually occurs when the matter is of public, not private concern

20 Damages Punitive Damages – damages that punish the defendant for misconduct and warn others not to act in a similar manner Big Money, Big Prizes! Banned in several states

21 Retraction Statutes Retractions - a statement published to retract or correct previously published libelous material 33 states have retraction statutes Under a typical retraction statute, a publisher must be given an opportunity to retract a libelous comment before a suit can begin Can reduce, and sometimes even cancel damages awarded

22 Criminal Libel Founded on the theory that the state should sometimes act on behalf of the injured party of the libel and bring criminal charges Justification for state action – to prevent the injured party from taking violent action Usually related to politics Not Common only 17 states, as of 2003

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