Friday, February 18, 2011

Texas App. Ct. Upholds Dismissal of Neurosurgeon's Libel Suit

KEYE-TV stationImage via WikipediaIn Byron D. Neely v. Nanci Wilson & CBS Stations Group of Texas, LP d/b/a KEYE-TV & Viacom, Inc. (Case No. 03-08-00495-CV), the Texas Court of Appeals for the Third District this week affirmed the dismissal of a neurosurgeon's libel case against a broadcast journalist and a CBS affiliate for airing a report in 2004 in which two individuals allegedly made defamatory statements accusing the plaintiff of committing medical malpractice and of being drug-dependent.

As reported by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Web site (, the appellate court, in its 49-page opinion, upheld the trial court and thereby boosted the fair and accurate report privilege asserted by the defendants. Two former patients of the plaintiff were interviewed by investigative reporter Wilson, one of whom alleged the plaintiff misdiagnosed her husband's condition, while the other claimed an adverse surgical result was a product of the plaintiff's purported steroid and opiate dependency.The plaintiff declined Wilson's offer to be interviewed, though his counsel did speak to her and provide information favorable to his position.

The Third District ruling embraced the so-called third-party allegation rule fostered by the defendants, which asserts that a media defendant's reporting that a third party has made allegations is "substantially true" if the allegations were, in fact, made and the content of the allegations is accurately reported.  The appellate court also supported the district court's grant of summary judgment to the defendants on the basis that the purportedly offensive statements were as a matter of law substantially true or not defamatory.

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