Sunday, September 18, 2005
In Karedes v. Ackerley Group, the Second Circuit has reversed the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, finding that a reasonable jury could decide that the reports of a local news station concerning a village audit were defamatory concerning the person primarily discussed in the reports. The district court had granted the defendants' motion to dismiss under Rule 12(c)--that the reports were substantially true.
The Second Circuit applied a de novo standard of review. The plaintiff acknowledged that he was a public figure and that the matter was one of public concern for purposes of the action brought, and the court applied the actual malice and clear and convicing standard. Next the court examined the broadcasts and articles of which Karedes complained. The Second Circuit concluded that they might bear multiple meanings, including a meaning that a jury might find to be false. In addition, the fact that the defendants allowed the plaintiff to respond "may blunt, but do not correct, the statement that is arguably made and that may be untrue: that one finding of an independent audit commissioned by the Village was that Karedes caused the Village to pay large sums on behalf of a private interest."
Finally the defendants pled a defense under Section 74 of the New York Civil Rights Law (fair and true report of judicial, legislative or other official proceeding). Because the Second Circuit did not accept that the report was substantially accurate it similarly rejected this defense. It vacated and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.
Read the opinion here.