Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fla. Appeals Court: ESPN Wins Don King Libel Suit by a TKO

American boxing promoter Don King posing with ...Image via Wikipedia
In Don King Productions, Inc. v. The Walt Disney Co. et al. (Case No. 4D-08-3704), Judge Dorian Damoorgian of the District Court of Appeal of Florida, 4th District, last week upheld the trial court's 2005 dismissal of boxing impresario Don King's defamation suit against ESPN, Inc., ESPN Productions, Inc., ESPN Classic, Inc. and parent company, The Walt Disney Co., on the grounds that King failed to prove the alleged defamatory statements were false or made by the defendants with actual malice.

ESPN's Sports Century devoted a 2004 episode to the life and career of  the boxing promoter. King alleged that the program contained false statements that harmed his reputation, including allegations that a charitable boxing exhibition featuring Muhammed Ali arranged by King cheated a Cleveland hospital out of ticket proceeds, that King purportedly threatened the life of the author of a book about him that was critical, and that he owed money to a boxer in his stable of fighters.

Judge Damoogian's decision  noted that to sustain his defamation claim as a public figure, King had to prove that the defendants made the statements at issue with actual malice, that is, knowledge that they were false or with reckless disregard whether they were true or false.  A mere failure to investigate the statements at issue before the defendants aired them, without more, does not rise to the level of actual malice, according to the appeals court.

The 79-year-old boxing impresario who promoted Ali's "Rumble in the Jungle" and "Thrilla in Manila" fights can add his own "Horror in Florida" hair-raising litigation experience to his list of achievements.

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