Wednesday, June 23, 2010

UPDATE: Judge Tosses $10m Libel Verdict Against St. Petersburg Times

St Petersburg FloridaImage by calebism via Flickr
Pinellas-Pasco (Fla.) Circuit Court Judge Anthony Rondolino, who presided over the libel trial of Dr. Harold Kennedy against the Times Publishing Co.owned St. Petersburg Times that ended with a $10 million jury verdict in favor of the former Bay Pines VA Medical Center chief of medicine, has thrown out the judgment, according to a story in the St. Petersburg Times.

Kennedy's attorney plans to appeal the decision, which overturned the award of $5.1 million compensatory damages and $5 million punitive damages decided by a six-member jury after a five-day trial last summer (see "TUOL" post 8/31/09). Kennedy sued the paper over 3 articles written  in December 2003, concerning his reassignment from chief of medicine to his subspecialty of cardiology at the VA Medical Center. The author of the articles, Paul de la Garza, died of a heart attack in 2006.

In a 2-page decision, Judge Rondolino concluded the evidence did not satisfy "the threshold required by the First Amendment." A heart-rending decision for the plaintiff cardiologist.

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