Why BCA v. NBC Universal Could Prove To Be An Important Case
BCA v. NBC Universal is interesting to legal watchers because it could re-define the limits of “journalistic privilege” under Colorado defamation law.
OK, Give Me The Facts On The BCA v. NBCUniversal Defamation Lawsuit
Tyrone Clark is founder of Broker’s Choice of America (BCA) – an investment firm. Several years ago, Dateline launched an “undercover investigation” into Clark and his business. Fake identities were procured from local law enforcement and Dateline operatives secretly filmed a private BCA seminar.
When the piece aired on Dateline, Clark (and by extension BCA) was ultimately characterized as a shyster who scared seniors into buying annuities.
Defamation Lawsuit Particulars
Irate, BCA filed a defamation lawsuit against every entity involved in the Dateline segment. BCA’s main claim: producers manipulated the raw footage to make the BCA seminar look more sinister than it was.
Team NBC argued “substantial truth” and convinced the trial court judge. The case was dismissed. But BCA appealed, and the decision was reversed.
Why Did The Appeals Court Reverse The Dateline Defamation Decision, And Why Is It Significant?
“Probable falsity” is at the root of the appeals court’s reversal in BCA v. NBCUniversal. The breakdown:
- During discovery, Dateline attorneys claimed “journalistic privilege” to block BCA from getting the raw footage. In previous Colorado State cases, the burden of “probable falsity” was put on the plaintiff to defeat the journalists’ privilege clause.
- In BCA v. NBCUniversal, the appeals court reasoned that the “probable falsity” standard was misapplied by the lower court, in this instance because the case didn’t involve a confidential source.
- The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled that the total impression the segment had to be considered and that the lower court erred by not crediting BCA’s allegations as true when deciding whether or not to grant NBCUniversal’s motion to dismiss. In defamation lawsuits, when deciding whether or not a case can move on to the next stage, the judge must assume that the plaintiff’s claims are true. At trial, it is the responsibility of the plaintiff to prove that their allegations are, indeed, fact. In the case of libel lawsuits, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant knowingly – or at least negligently — lied with the intent to cause harm.
Speak with A Defamation Lawyer Today
BCA v. NBCUniveral is the perfect example of the nuanced nature of defamation lawsuits. They often hinge on obscure, detailed interpretations of the law. Instead of going it alone, it’s wise to hire an attorney who has handled all manners of libel litigation. Kelly / Warner is a top legal practice, with AV-rated attorneys. Our three main practice areas are defamation law, Internet law and business law. Get in touch today to begin the conversation about your legal needs – and we’ll get to work fixing them.