ROCEDURAL POSTURE: Defendant author and defendant publisher appealed from verdicts against them on plaintiff's libel and contract counts and from a judgment for damages in favor of plaintiff in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California).OVERVIEW: Defendant author wrote a book about plaintiff's use of the so-called "Nude Marathon" in group therapy. As a participant, defendant author contractually agreed not to disclose what transpired. Following publication of defendant author's book about the sessions, plaintiff filed a defamation, libel, and breach of contract action, asserting that he was damaged by defendant author's inaccurate portrayal of what happened at the marathon. The court determined that there was clear and convincing evidence to support the libel claim and the jury's finding of actual malice against defendants author and publisher. The court affirmed the award of punitive damages against defendant publisher, finding it had a duty to investigate the possibility that plaintiff was defamed by the book. The court found no authority that plaintiff could contractually prevent defendant author from writing about her treatment; therefore, the limits to her right to report were those involved in the libel counts.OUTCOME: The court affirmed the judgment but modified it by substituting for separate judgments against defendants author and publisher a joint and several judgment against both defendants, and by including in the judgment a separate judgment against defendant publisher for punitive damages.
Cubby Inc v compuserve inc
PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Defendant computerized database owner brought a motion for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 in a diversity action by plaintiffs, a competing database operator and its developer, for libel, business disparagement, and unfair competition, based on allegedly defamatory statements made in a publication carried on defendant's database.OVERVIEW: Plaintiffs, a computerized database operator and its developer, brought a diversity action against defendant competing database owner for libel, business disparagement, and unfair competition arising from defendant's carrying in its database a publication containing allegedly defamatory statements about plaintiffs. The court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment and found that it acted as a distributor, not as a publisher, of the statements, and could not be held liable for them because it did not know and had no reason to know of the statements. Plaintiffs did not set forth anything other than conclusory allegations as to whether defendant knew or had reason to know of the offending statements and, therefore, they failed to meet their summary judgment burden under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 of showing that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to their libel, business disparagement, and unfair competition claims. The court found that there was no agency relationship between defendant and those who managed the part of its database where the allegedly offending statements were carried and, therefore, it was not vicariously liable for their actions.OUTCOME: The court granted defendant computerized database owner's motion for summary judgment because plaintiffs, a competing database operator and its developer, failed to meet their burden of setting forth specific facts showing that there was a genuine issue as to whether defendant, as a distributor of the publication containing the allegedly offending statements, knew or had reason to know of the statements.
Stratton Oakmont v Prodigy Services
PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Plaintiffs, a corporation and an injured party, filed a motion for partial summary judgment in their defamation suit against defendant online service provider.OVERVIEW: The online service provider had posted defamatory statements on its bulletin board. The corporation and the injured party sought partial summary judgment on the issue of whether the online service provider could have