CNN and The Washington Post look like geniuses after having settled their libel suits by Nicholas Sandmann out of the way for as little as possible.
The NYT, ABC, CBS, and Rolling Stone rolled the dice and tried to get their cases dismissed. That will likely cost them dearly as Sandmann does not need to be rushed into settling with them thanks to the huge settlements with CNN and the Washington Post. He can afford to hold out for the maximum payment.
By holding out the four outlets have killed almost any chance they had at a settlement with Sandmann and they now have to take their chances with the juries.
And juries love awarding huge settlements. This is especially true since the chances of them being found not guilty of libel is miniscule at best. All four will have separate trials and those trials should be scheduled very soon.
Our friend William Jacobson has the links to the four court orders denying the motions to dismiss, all separately for each respondent. William excerpts the explanation denying the motion from the New York Times as fairly representative of the response to all four:
Greatly summarized, the Complaint alleges that Sandmann was libeled by the defendant when it published a news article stating that Sandmann, while at the Lincoln Memorial, “blocked” NativeAmerican activist Nathan Phillips and “prevented Phillips’ retreat while Nicholas and a mass of other young white boys surrounded, taunted, jeered and physically intimidated Phillips.” (Compl. ¶ 3).
This news story is alleged to be false and defamatory. (Id.). Sandmann further alleges that this publication by defendant and similar stories by other news media caused him to be harassed by the public, causing him great emotional distress. (Compl. ¶¶ 25, 162-164, 251-257). Sandmann also alleges that defendant’s article “is now forever a part of the historical Internet record and will haunt and taint Nicholas for the remainder of his natural life and impugn his reputation for generations to come.” (Compl. ¶ 254).
The motion to dismiss argues that this publication is not libelous, but the Court has ruled in companion cases that it is libelous. The Court continues to hold that opinion for the reason stated in such preceding cases. See Sandmann v. The Washington Post, Cov. Case No. 19cv19 (Docs. 47, 64); Sandmann v. Cable News Network, Cov. Case No. 19cv31 (Docs. 43, 44); Sandmann v. NBCUniversal Media, LLC, Cov. Case No. 19cv56 (Doc. 43).
From Hot Air
However, this excerpt from the court’s response to Rolling Stone seems even more germane. The magazine’s attorneys attempted to use Croce v NY Times to argue that all their client did was provide an account of the facts at hand. The court noted that this precedent technically doesn’t apply since all parties agreed to be bound by Kentucky rather than Ohio law, but it won’t hold up in the particulars of Sandmann’s complaint anyway:
In Croce, a newspaper published an article that included unflattering allegations against the plaintiff, a university professor and cancer researcher. The Court held that, in “full context,” a “reasonable reader would interpret the article as a standard piece of investigative journalism” which simply reported “newsworthy allegations with appropriate qualifying language.” Id. at 794-95.
That holding is inapplicable under the allegations of the Complaint here. Sandmann alleges that defendants published a factual, defamatory statement by Phillips, period. No amount of context removes that meaning. Sandmann further alleges that defendants failed to exercise reasonable journalistic care in determining whether Phillips’ statements should have been published at all. Therefore, the Court holds that the Complaint states a claim for relief.
Note especially the reference to discovery, the process by which attorneys for each side can demand documentation and depositions.
That’s what these media outlets want to avoid most. For one thing, that battle is absurdly asymmetrical.
How much discovery can these media outlets get from a teenager? On the other hand, Wood can use that process to depose everyone up the managerial chain, right up to the top of the outlets, and use the depositions to wage public war on them.