Avenatti Loses $250 Million Defamation Suit Against Fox News
(Bloomberg Law) -- A lawsuit by celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti accusing Fox News Network LLC of defaming him in the coverage of his arrest for suspicion of domestic violence and seeking $250 million was dismissed Friday when a federal judge in Delaware found that the report was substantially true.
Avenatti filed suit in state court in November 2020, accusing the news network of “purposeful and malicious efforts” to “destroy his reputation and livelihood” and remove him as a threat to then-president Donald Trump. The complaint was removed to federal court, which rebuffed Avenatti’s bid to return the case to the state court.
The defendants moved to dismiss the suit in March, arguing that the case represented a “textbook example” of speech that’s protected by the First Amendment.
Judge Stephanos Bibas, sitting by designation from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, agreed: “News outlets are not liable for minor mistakes, especially when reporting on public figures and matters of public concern.”
Most of the statements made by Fox in its coverage of Avenatti’s arrest were substantially true, and the famous attorney had failed to show that “Fox or its employees knew that the statements were false or recklessly disregarded that possibility,” he said.
Bibas left open the option for Avenatti to amend his complaint.
Fox News hailed the opinion as an important legal victory for the news giant.
“We are pleased with the Court’s swift decision in favor of FOX News,” the company said in a statement released Friday. “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 is represented by Browne George Ross O’Brien Annaguey & Ellis LLP and Ross Aronstam & Moritz LLP. Avenatti is represented by Seitz, Van Ogtrop & Green PA.
The case is Avenatti v. Fox News Network LLC, D. Del., No. 1:20-cv-01541-SB, 8/13/21.
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