Wednesday, May 12, 2010

N.J. Paper's "Fair Report" Defeats Libel Claim

New Jersey Supreme CourtImage via Wikipedia
In Thomas John Salzano v. North Jersey Media Group, Inc. d/b/a The Record,, Malcolm Borg, Stephen A. Borg, Martha McKay & Jonathan Markey, Glen Ridge Voice, Inc. & Frank A. Orechio (Case No. A 78-79, Sept. 2008 Term) the N. J. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the so-called "fair report" privilege applies to defamatory statements contained in filed pleadings that have yet to come before a judicial officer.

In reversing an appellate decision that held media outlets liable for defamatory allegations contained in pretrial filings, New Jersey's High Court wrote that a media defendant's full, fair and accurate account of an official proceeding need not be exact, provided that readers receive a substantially correct account of the official document's contents.  The state supreme court credited the public with being sophisticated enough to evaluate accusations.

The plaintiff sued the defendants based on a March 2006, article in The Record concerning a bankruptcy court complaint alleging the plaintiff misappropriated $500,000 from a telecommunications company. The complaint against him has since been dismissed, according to the plaintiff.  The N.J. Supreme Court said the plaintiff could pursue his action regarding allegedly libelous statements from sources other than the court documents at issue.

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