Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Judge Grants Summary Judgment In Defamation Case Against Buzzfeed

U. S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero has granted Buzzfeed's request for summary judgment in Leidig v. Buzzfeed, agreeing with the defendant that the plaintiffs could not demonstrate that the statements they complained of were false or that they could demonstrate the required degree of fault. The plaintiffs, Michael Leidig and Central European News, had alleged that Buzzfeed had made defamatory statements about them in an article published on April 24, 2015, and titled "The King of Bullsh*t News."

Buzzfeed moved for summary judgment under Rule 56(A) and the judge granted it, writing that "[s]ummary judgment is appropriate if the evidence shows that 'there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" The judge also ntoed that "the burden of proving the falsity of a statement rests with the plaintiff." The plaintiffs were unable "to identify a genuine dispute of material fact" and contested only one paragraph that Buzzfeed published. They issued blanket denials and said they did not know where the quotes in one of the stories came from (p. 29).

Ruled the judge, "[A]ny defamatory fact gleaned from this headline manifests an implication supported by the substantial truth of the Article itself...The only possible additional defamatory fact is that Plaintiffs read, without any support, the reference to "king" in the headline to mean "largest." In context, such an interpretation derives not from the actual text of the headline, but from the hyperbolic spin Plaintiffs put on it, especially in their reference to "largest purveyors in the world." ...But, even if this construction reflected a fair reading, the difference between being the "largest" or a "large" purveyor of such news stories is immaterial in the context of such news stories is immaterial in the context of this Article."

Michael Leidig v. Buzzfeed, 16 Civ. 0542, U.S. D.C. (Southern District of N.Y.)

Read the entire ruling here.

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