Judge Rules News Outlets are Not Liable for Minor Mistakes–Fox News Stories were Substantially True, Dismisses $250 Million Claim
Important Legal Victory for All Journalists, News Reporting
Delaware (August 13, 2021)– A federal judge today ruled that news outlets are not liable for minor mistakes, especially when reporting on public figures and matters of public concern, in a case involving a defamation claim against Fox News by attorney Michael Avenatti.
Judge Stephanos Bibas sided with Fox News to dismiss Mr. Avenatti’s defamation complaint. Bibas held that Fox News had accurately reported in 2018 that Avenatti had been arrested and accused of domestic violence, precluding Avenatt from proceeding on his $250 million claim.
The case was filed by Avenatti after his arrest in 2018 on suspicion of domestic violence.
“We are pleased with the Court’s swift decision in favor of FOX News. Today’s ruling is a victory for journalists everywhere, who should not be intimidated into silence when bullies like Michael Avenatti file baseless multimillion-dollar lawsuits,” Fox News said in a statement.
Bibas in his decision wrote, “Fox News covered his arrest. He sued, claiming that its reporting defamed him. But most of its statements were substantially true. And, Avenatti does not plausibly plead that Fox or its employees knew that the statements were false or recklessly disregarded that possibility. He also fails to allege any recoverable damages. I will thus dismiss his complaint.”
Fox News was represented by Eric George of Browne George Ross O’Brien Annaguey & Ellis LLP.
The judge concluded “Avenatti dislikes how Fox News covered his arrest. But he cannot overcome the truthfulness of the gist of Fox’s coverage—he was, after all, arrested for suspected domestic violence. Plus, he has not shown that Defendants knew, or deliberately ignored, any inaccuracies in their reporting.”