23 Media L. Rep. 1016, 1993 WL 767192 (D. Cal. 1993)
Defendant tabloid magazine filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff married celebrities' complaint for failure to state a claim. The complaint alleged libel, statutory and common-law misappropriation of rights of publicity, false light, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, .
OVERVIEW: Plaintiff married celebrities filed an action against defendant tabloid magazine, alleging libel, statutory and common-law misappropriation of rights of publicity, false light, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, for an article published by defendant concerning one of plaintiff's pending pregnancy. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint for failure to state a claim.
The court granted defendant's motion, concluding that New York law applied to the case because plaintiffs lived and worked in New York so it was the state where at least a substantial portion of the damage to plaintiffs' reputations, if any, occurred.
-The court found that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for libel per se because the medical practices that were mentioned in the article regarding how plaintiffs conceived their child were common enough in society that they would not induce any evil or unsavory opinion of plaintiffs.
-The court determined that defendant's actions did not cause plaintiffs to fear for their safety.
-The court held that the statements in defendant's article were not so outrageous and extreme as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency.
-A statement is defamatory if it tends to expose a person to hatred, contempt or aversion, or to induce an evil or unsavory opinion of him in the minds of a substantial number of the community, even though it may impute no moral turpitude to him.
-Furthermore, whether language has that tendency depends, among other factors, upon the temper of the times, the current of contemporary public opinion, with the result that words, harmless in one age, in one community, may be highly damaging to reputation at another time or in a different place.
-In making this inquiry, the New York Court of Appeals has developed various standards to guide the decision.
-First, the court shall not pick out and isolate particular phrases but will consider the publication as a whole.
-Second, the publication will be tested by its effect upon the average reader. Third, the language will be given a fair reading and the court will not strain to place a particular interpretation on the published words.
-Finally, it is the duty of the court to understand the publication in the same manner that others would naturally do.
OUTCOME: The court granted defendant tabloid magazine's motion to dismiss plaintiff married celebrities' complaint for failure to state a cause of action. The court found that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for libel per se.
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