Ex-National Basketball Association (NBA) star Scottie Pippen just lost big time.
First, some background: In December 2011, the former Chicago Bulls player sued 10 media outlets, claiming they falsely reported that he had filed for bankruptcy. Pippen’s suit targeted CBS Corp., CNBC owners Comcast Corp. and General Electric Co., as well as other media companies for negligence, false light and defamation. He sought $10 million in damages.
A district court dismissed Pippen’s case, and last week, the 7th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The court said Pippen failed to prove that the media outlets “either knew the statements [about his finances] to be false or were recklessly indifferent to whether they were true or false."
The 7th Circuit’s decision is also noteworthy because it addresses whether online media outlets have a duty to correct false statements they published. Pippen argued that because the defendants were online publishers, they could have easily altered the false stories, and because they didn’t, they should face consequences.
An Illinois statute pertaining to traditional media, the Uniform Single Publications Act, provides that a claim for defamation relief only applies to the first publication; later circulation of the original story doesn’t trigger new claims. The 7th Circuit ruled that excluding online stories from the statute would “expose online publishers to potentially limitless liability.” Thus, the court found that online publishers shouldn’t be punished for not altering its allegedly incorrect stories.
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