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Thread: Revisiting Private Figure Defamation Claims in the Internet Era?

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    Post Revisiting Private Figure Defamation Claims in the Internet Era?

    Revisiting Private Figure Defamation Claims in the Internet Era? Aaron Anderson, et al, v. WBNS-TV, Inc. -- On April 24, 2019, the Supreme Court of Ohio head oral argument in Aaron Anderson, et al, v. WBNS-TV, Inc., 2018-0792. At issue in the case is the requisite degree of fault required in this internet era in private figure defamation cases where the media publish stories about matters of public concern in reliance on information provided by official sources.

    The Columbus Police Department (“CPD”) emailed a Media Information Sheet to news organizations detailing a robbery on November 26, 2015 at a Columbus waterpark in which suspects pointed a gun at an 8-year-old girl and stole her hoverboard. The Media Information Sheet was accompanied by two photographs. One, called the “Parking Lot Photograph” shows an empty parking lot with several grainy images standing together. The other, known as the “Hall Photograph” clearly shows two males and a female, later identified as the Andersons, walking down a hall. The CPD Media Information Sheet refers to the persons in the photographs only as persons who may have been involved in the crime.

    On January 20, 2016, WBNS-TV (“WBNS”) put together a news broadcast and a web-based story about this incident. WBNS relied on the Media Information Sheet in preparing its broadcast, but rewrote the story. The broadcast showed the photographs and referred to those involved at different points as robbers and suspects. The web story and Facebook post included the photographs and a bold-font headline, “Robbers Put Gun To Child’s Head And Steal Hoverboard.”

    The mother of the children in the photographs took the kids to the police, they were cleared and the lawsuit entailed.

    WBNS filed a motion for summary judgment which was granted by the trial court. The Andersons appealed. On appeal, the Tenth District, in a unanimous opinion, reversed the grant of summary judgment on the defamation claim, finding that there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether broadcasting an accusation that the Andersons were robbers without investigation, and based a set of police documents which claimed only that some of the Andersons were suspects, is sufficient to establish a violation of the requisite duty of care. The matter is now before the Ohio Supreme Court.

    http://www.legallyspeakingohio.com/2...v-wbns-tv-inc/
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    Sounds like a winner for the family
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    Here's an idea: Do a poll.

    Before such a suit can even begin to move forward, poll a representative sample of people who watched the news that night, and ask them simple multiple choice questions that would determine their interpretations of the alleged perps guilt or innocence based on what they saw. If they did not form an opinion, toss the suit. I don't think any of issues in presentation probably had any impact on viewers, and furthermore, I doubt viewers would remember who the hell the alleged perps were. A poll would determine the validity of the suit.
    Last edited by Lummy; 06-20-2019 at 10:24 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lummy View Post
    Here's an idea: Do a poll.

    Before such a suit can even begin to move forward, poll a representative sample of people who watched the news that night, and ask them simple multiple choice questions that would determine their interpretations of the alleged perps guilt or innocence based on what they saw. If they did not form an opinion, toss the suit. I don't think any of issues in presentation probably had any impact on viewers, and furthermore, I doubt viewers would remember who the hell the alleged perps were. A poll would determine the validity of the suit.
    The number of individuals who were negligently misinformed - essentially, lied to - about the plaintiffs, whether it was five or five hundred, shouldn't enter into the court's decision.
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    DGUtley (06-20-2019)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Standing Wolf View Post
    The number of individuals who were negligently misinformed - essentially, lied to - about the plaintiffs, whether it was five or five hundred, shouldn't enter into the court's decision.
    The poll would only incidentally have to do with the number of viewers except to establish the statistical validity of the poll that would also establish that yes, these people did watch that segment; and then within that set of viewers, you could determine if a viewer: 1 could identify the subjects; 2 formed any opinion at all about the subjects based on the story, which is the basic issue in libel and defamation, is it not? If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?

    Also, doesn't a victim claiming defamation have to demonstrate tangibly that he has been harmed?
    Last edited by Lummy; 06-20-2019 at 11:10 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lummy View Post
    The poll would only incidentally have to do with the number of viewers except to establish the statistical validity of the poll that would also establish that yes, these people did watch that segment; and then within that set of viewers, you could determine if a viewer: 1 could identify the subjects; 2 formed any opinion at all about the subjects based on the story, which is the basic issue in libel and defamation, is it not? If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? Also, doesn't a supposed victim of defamation have to demonstrate tangibly that he has been harmed?
    Well, in Ohio, accusing someone of a crime would constitute defamation per se and the number of viewers would only go into the calculation of damages. You could defend it by arguing that it wasn't believed, nobody held you in less esteem etc to mitigate damages but damages are presumed for defamation per se claims in Ohio.
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    So, let's say the supposed butthurt party wants to sue for $XXX million. A general survey is then conducted ASAP, before everyone forgets they saw that news, and it establishes, within tolerable parameters agreed to by the court, that:

    1 about 9% of total TV viewers that night actually watched that news segment;
    2 only 7% of those -- of that 9%, or about 0.6%, just over one half of one percent of total viewers of the segment could identifiy the parties involved in the incident if they ever saw them again. Some even smaller fraction of that percentage believed it, and of those, some infinitesimally small number of people (quite likely nobody) would be of significant coincidental importance in some future scenario -- a job interview, for example.
    Last edited by Lummy; 06-20-2019 at 12:17 PM.
    "They are not after me, they are after you. I'm just in the way." -- President Trump's 12.18.19 analysis of democrats' impeachment fraud.

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