Articles Posted in Times vs. Sullivan standard

Published on:

offensive-line-300x200A recent case provides another opportunity to consider the legal issues surrounding defamation of a public figure. What constitutes defamation of character, where a football coach is accused of participating in bullying conduct? The Eleventh Circuit ruled against the football coach in Turner v. Wells, in an opinion published January 18, 2018.

James Turner coached the offensive line for the Miami Dolphins from 2012 until February 2014. Following allegations of bullying within the organization, the NFL hired the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, and individual Paul, Weiss attorney, Theodore V. Wells, Jr., to investigate. After receiving the 144-page Paul, Weiss report (the “Report”), the Dolphins fired Turner in February 2014.

The Report focused on the bullying of Jonathan Martin, an offensive lineman for the Dolphins. Martin abruptly left the team in October 2013, and checked himself into a hospital for psychological treatment. The Report concluded that bullying by several players contributed to Martin’s decision to leave the team, and the Report also included several references to Turner, opining that his unprofessional conduct played a role in Martin’s struggles.

After being fired, Turner filed suit against Paul, Weiss, and Wells, in U.S. District Court in Florida. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim, and Turner appealed to the Eleventh Circuit (which has appellate jurisdiction over federal cases arising from Alabama, Georgia and Florida).

The Eleventh Circuit reviewed Turner’s claims of defamation by applying the elements of Florida law, which requires: (1) publication; (2) falsity; (3) the statement was made with knowledge or reckless disregard as to the falsity on a matter concerning a public official, or at least negligently on a matter concerning a private person; (4) actual damages; and (5) the statement must be defamatory. The Court concluded that Turner had failed to prove his claims of defamation. Continue reading

Published on:

recklessdisregard 1Abduction!, the world’s hottest online game from the world’s hottest online game developer, the anonymous shadow figure known to the world only as Poniard (think, an online Banksy), accuses real-life media mogul, William Bishop, known to the world as William the Conqueror (think, Rupert Murdoch) of the abduction and murder of the well-known film starlet Felicity McGrath some years before. What’s a tycoon to do but sue Poniard for libel and defamation? As we all know, though, truth is an absolute defense to libel.

That’s the set-up for Robert Rotstein’s latest legal thriller, Reckless Disregard, (Seventh Street Books, 2014) and what a fun ride this book is. Our hero is Parker Stern, a burned-out trial lawyer with a secret past. Once at the top of the Los Angeles legal heap, Parker has lost his love for the law and is terrified of the courtroom. Now working from a sparsely furnished room the mediation service provides, he’s spending the prime of his legal career as a two-bit mediator, handling the legal dross that none of the other mediators wants, the slip-and-falls, evictions, Worker’s Comp claims. Out of nowhere he gets a chat message from Poniard, asking him for representation in the libel suit. Poniard will not be denied and offers to pay him any fee for the best legal talent available. And we’re off!

Continue reading