Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Decision a Defining Moment in Libel Law

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Decision a Defining Moment in Libel Law

Article excerpt

And it might mean nothing but trouble

In a case seen as a blow to the standard definition of a "public figure" for libel purposes, a major stockholder in a failed California savings and loan has been awarded $2.25 million for two news articles that linked him to investment fraud.

Eleven years after a suit was filed, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury recently found that two Santa Barbara News-Press articles defamed Beverly Hills businessman Leonard M. Ross.

The New York Times Co. owned the News-Press when the stories were published in 1988 and 1989. Santa Barbara businesswoman Wendy McCaw bought the paper from the Times Co. last year.

George Freeman, Times Co. assistant general counsel, said an appeal is being considered. He added that the ruling was a disappointment because, despite a high profile in Santa Barbara, Ross was found to be a private figure and not a public one under the standard established by the landmark 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan case, which requires public figures to prove actual malice -- a much higher burden of proof. …

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