Friday, March 30, 2012

UPDATE: Judge Takes Dim 'View' of Libel Suit Against Barbara Walters

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 28:  TV personalities ... (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts Judge George A. O'Toole Tuesday tossed the defamation suit brought against television personality Barbara Walters last summer(see "TUOL" post 7/27/11) based on two sentences contained in her 579-page tome, Audition: A Memoir (2008), the THR,Esq. Web site reports.

The case, Shay v. Walters (Docket No. 1:2011-cv-10932), concerned Nancy Shay, a woman who alleged she had a lesbian relationship with Walters' adopted daughter when the two were teens enrolled at the Wykeham Rise School in Washington, Connecticut. The plaintiff claimed Walters exerted pressure to have the then 16-year-old Shay expelled from the school.

Shay's complaint alleged she was defamed by a passage in the memoir in which Walters recounts an incident in the 1980s that described a friend of her daughter "whom the school kicked out midterm for bad behavior" in which the daughter and unnamed friend were "found in the nearby town, high on God-knows-what."

Judge O'Toole dismissed the complaint that included counts alleging defamation, tortious interference and emotional distress because he ruled Shay could not show damages, even if the allegations proved true. Defamation involves damage to the plaintiff's reputation before a substantial, respectable segment of the community, and Judge O'Toole wrote: "[T]he small number of people who would have been able to recognize the book's oblique references to the plaintiff would also likely have been aware of the circumstances of her expulsion that were the subject matter of the accused statements."

Judge O'Toole also said Shay's claim that Walters tortiously interfered with Shay's relationship with Wykeham Rise School was untimely.
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