Monday, March 25, 2013

Khawar v. Globe International, Inc. case brief

Khawar v. Globe International, Inc. case brief
965 P.2d 696 (Cal. 1998)

Defendant newspaper sought review of a decision from the Court of Appeal (California), granting plaintiff private citizen damages as a result of defendant's publishing of defamatory falsehoods about plaintiff based upon information contained in a book, accusing plaintiff of assassinating a federal presidential candidate.

OVERVIEW: Defendant newspaper challenged the court of appeal's judgment imposing liability for defamation of plaintiff private citizen. Defendant had reprinted from a book a 21-year-old picture of plaintiff standing near presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy minutes before Kennedy was assassinated and had republished the book's theory that plaintiff murdered Kennedy.

On appeal, the state's highest court held that plaintiff was a private citizen, not an involuntary public figure, because plaintiff had not been thrust into the public spotlight by any action of his own.

-Therefore, defendant was not shielded by the neutral reportage privilege, and plaintiff was not required to prove that defendant acted with actual malice in republishing the defamatory information.
-However, plaintiff was required to prove actual malice in order to retain $ 500,000 in punitive damages awarded by the jury.
-The court found that defendant acted with actual malice by failing to use readily available means to verify the accuracy of the book's information before republishing it. A fortiori, defendant was also negligent.
-The court affirmed the jury's total award of $ 1.175 million in favor of plaintiff.

-The publisher of a defamatory statement acts with reckless disregard amounting to actual malice if, at the time of publication, the publisher in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth of his publication.
-This "actual malice" requirement for defamation actions brought by public officials applied also to defamation actions brought by public figures.
-There are two types of public figures.
-Some of these public figures occupy positions of such persuasive power and influence that they are deemed public figures for all purposes.
-More commonly, however, those classed as public figures have thrust themselves to the forefront of particular public controversies in order to influence the resolution of the issues involved. In either event, they invite attention and comment.

OUTCOME: The court affirmed the jury's $ 1.175 million damage award, including $ 500,000 in punitive damages, to plaintiff private citizen after defendant newspaper republished defamatory information contained in a book. Defendant acted with actual malice by failing to use readily available means to verify the accuracy of falsehoods linking plaintiff to the assassination of a presidential candidate.

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