Ch. 6: Defamation and Media Liability: Why Media Firms Need to Worry about Reputational Lawsuits
Pt. 2: Case Study: A PR Firm Learns How Damaging Defamation Can Be
NBC Sports details how PR firm Spaeth Communications found itself in the hot seat. ESPN sports anchor Craig James hired Spaeth because James allegedly wanted the PR firm to distribute video footage that would be detrimental to Texas Tech coach Mike Leach . Here's what ensued:
- James, whose son played for Leach, was upset when the coach purportedly locked his son in a supply closet as punishment.
- Leach was fired after reports on ESPN accused him of mistreating players, including James's son.
- Leach's lawyers fired back, suing both ESPN and the PR firm, claiming they knowingly defamed him.
After a four-year legal battle, a judge dismissed Leach's lawsuit. This lawsuit is a prime example of what can happen to media firms. If your client defames someone in their ads or communications, you might have to defend your business from a lawsuit. Though you're just following orders, you can be liable. Even if you publish accurate stories, you can still be sued if someone else takes exception — and that lawsuit (and your legal bills) can last years.
Next: Pt. 3: Is there Defamation Insurance?