This Week In Lawsuits: SLAAP Slapped Down For ABC, NBC Files Zimmerman Brief

By Alex Weprin 

Two lawsuits involving TV news outlets had developments this week: one involving ABC News and Chris Cuomo, and the other in the NBC News/George Zimmerman lawsuit.

With regard to ABC News, the network and Cuomo were sued by a man named David Williams, who says that he was defamed by a “20/20” episode on the dangers of online dating. ABC filed an anti-SLAAP suit to try and have the lawsuit dropped, but a judge said that Williams made enough valid points to allow the lawsuit to go forward. THR’s Eriq Gardner has more.

Judge Miller accepted Williams’ word that the ABC program caused serious problems for the plaintiff’s job as vp sales and marketing for KidsEmbrace and that Williams suffered severe emotional distress and migraines as a result of the broadcast. The judge also weighed evidence that ABC and Cuomo breached journalism ethics by not examining Cahill’s story better, not contacting Williams’ wife, only contacting Williams twice and giving him a “take-it-or-leave it opportunity to discuss the matter on the record.”

The judge says, “Plaintiff has adequately demonstrated that ABC failed to use reasonable care in determining the truth or falsity of the statements before publishing them.”

With the Zimmerman case, NBC filed a request to stay the case until the June trial concludes. The Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple has a few highlights:

Among the important themes of NBC’s recent motion is the way other news outlets portrayed Zimmerman and the larger issues in the case. For example, it notes that a Reuters story played up the racial dimension of thing, quoting the Martin family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, as saying that race was the “600-pound elephant in the room.” It cites an early CBS piece noting that the case has “serious racial overtones.” It cites a Huffington Post account saying that “The martin family’s attorneys and black community leaders have said the teenager was profiled and targeted because he was young and black.” It cites a Christian Science Monitor account saying that “[f]or many tuning in across the nation, the shooting late last month in Florida of an unarmed black teenager by a suspicious neighborhood watch captain looks like a racially motivated murder.”