Libel example

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Carol Burnett v. The National Enquirer

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Libel example

  1. 1. Carol Burnett’s libel suit against the National Enquirer<br />1<br />
  2. 2. The National Enquirer wrote…<br />“In a Washington restaurant, a boisterous Carol Burnett had a loud argument with another diner, Henry Kissinger. Then she traipsed around the place offering everyone a bite of her dessert. But Carol really raised eyebrows when she accidentally knocked a glass of wine over one diner and started giggling instead of apologizing. The guy wasn't amused and 'accidentally' spilled a glass of water over Carol's dress.”<br />2<br />
  3. 3. Here’s what really happened…<br />Carol Burnett, her husband and three friends were having dinner at the Rive Gauche restaurant in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. The date was January 29, 1976. <br />3<br />
  4. 4. Here’s what really happened…<br />Respondent was in the area as a result of being invited to be a performing guest at the White House. In the course of the dinner, respondent had two or three glasses of wine. She was not inebriated. <br />4<br />
  5. 5. Here’s what really happened…<br />She engaged in banter with a young couple seated at a table next to hers, who had just become engaged or were otherwise celebrating. <br />5<br />
  6. 6. Here’s what really happened…<br />When curiosity was expressed about respondent's dessert, apparently a chocolate soufflé, respondent saw to it the couple were provided with small amounts of it on plates they had passed to her table for the purpose. <br />6<br />
  7. 7. Here’s what really happened…<br />Perhaps from having witnessed the gesture, a family behind respondent then offered to exchange some of their baked Alaska for a portion of the soufflé, and they, too, were similarly accommodated. <br />7<br />
  8. 8. Here’s what really happened…<br />Ms. Burnett was later leaving the restaurant, she was introduced by a friend to Henry Kissinger, who was dining at another table, and after a brief conversation, respondent left with her party. <br />8<br />
  9. 9. Carol Burnett sued the National Enquirer for libel<br />9<br />
  10. 10. Basic “elements” of libel:<br />Something was written (or at least put in “permanent” form)<br />Written thing was false<br />Written thing shown to a third party<br />Written thing hurt someone or someone’s reputation (not just offensive or insulting)<br />10<br />
  11. 11. The jury awarded Ms. Burnett<br />$300,000 compensatory damages <br />11<br />
  12. 12. The jury awarded Ms. Burnett<br />$300,000 compensatory damages<br />And $1.3 million punitive damages <br />12<br />
  13. 13. The judge reduced the amount to<br />13<br />
  14. 14. The judge reduced the amount to<br />$50,000 compensatory damages<br />14<br />
  15. 15. The judge reduced the amount to<br />$50,000 compensatory damages<br />and $750,000 punitive damages <br />15<br />
  16. 16. The National Enquirer appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Appeals Court decided they had to pay…<br />16<br />
  17. 17. The National Enquirer appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Appeals Court decided they had to pay…<br />$50,000 compensatory damages<br />And $150,000 punitive damages <br />17<br />
  18. 18. Basic “elements” of libel:<br />Something was written (or at least put in “permanent” form)<br />Written thing was false<br />Written thing shown to a third party<br />Written thing hurt someone or someone’s reputation (not just offensive or insulting)<br />18<br />
  19. 19. ---end of presentation---<br />19<br />

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