Mistaken Reporting Does Not Amount to Actual Malice


Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy Osbourne

A case indirectly involving Ozzy “Bark at the Moon” Osbourne affords me another opportunity to illustrate what a legal minefield a defamation case can present.

The case arose from statements made about Osbourne’s former physician, Dr. David Kipper. The New York Times published a story which included Osborne’s allegations that his former physician had overprescribed medication to him during his appearance on the MTV reality series “The Osbornes.” In that same article, the Times reported that the Medical Board had “moved to revoke” Dr. Kipper’s license.

The New York Post published a condensed version of the Time’s article, but during the summary process stated instead that the doctor’s license had been revoked. Under normal circumstances that would certainly constitute defamation, but let’s test your legal prowess. Do you see the problem? What if I tell you that Dr. Kipper is a public figure; now do you see the problem?

In order to prevail in his case against the Post, Kipper had to prove “[New York Times] actual malice.” He had the burden of showing that the Post had knowledge that the statement was false or made the statement with reckless disregard for whether it was true.

The post brought a motion for summary judgment which was denied, but the appellate court reversed and ordered the case dismissed. The justice wrote, “Other than the fact that the rewrite contains erroneous statements, there is no evidence that anyone at the Post set out to falsely defame plaintiff in this instance, or other individuals regularly, to increase its sales.”

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Aaron Morris
Morris & Stone, LLP
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