Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Holistic Healer Laying Hands on $1m Defamation Judgment from Minn. ABC Affiliate

Entrance to the KSTP studios on University Ave...Image via WikipediaABC Minnesota affiliate KSTP-TV will appeal a $1 million defamation judgment--the largest such award against a broadcaster in the state's history--awarded to a Wisconsin naturopathy healer for a 2009 story alleging she told a client to discontinue taking an anti-anxiety medication.

According to reports by Associated Press and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Website (, the healer, Susan Anderson, then-known as Susan Wahl, denied dispensing that advice to Cheryl Blaha, and, after a five-day trial, a Dakota County (Minn.) jury agreed, awarding Anderson $100,000 consequential damages for lost past and future income, and $900,000 in damages based on a finding that the broadcaster acted with actual malice in airing the story in March 2009. The jury passed on awarding the plaintiff punitive damages.

In the KSTP story, Blaha, also a defendant in the case along with her spouse, claimed she attempted suicide after heeding the healer's alleged advice to cease taking the anti-anxiety medication.  The jury found the tv station failed to verify Blaha's allegation, noting the absence of a medical record reflecting a suicide attempt, along with testimony from the woman's physician that he recommended she stopping taking the drug at issue.

The station is appealing the verdict, both claiming that it fairly reported both sides of the story and that the mammoth jury award was unsupported by the evidence.

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