Advertising & Media

February 2007

FBT Wins at Trial and on Appeal

In 2005, FBT assembled a trial team of three lawyers led by DickGoehler to defend 84 WHAS Radio in Louisville, Kentucky, against a defamation case brought by a public figure, Darcie Divita. Her claims were based on statements made by co-defendant JohnZiegler on the air at 84 WHAS. The jury found for both defendants on all claims in large part because Divita could not prove that defendants acted with actual malice when the statements were made. Divita appealed. In 2006, FBT assembled an appellate team led by SherylSnyder to defend against Divita’s appeal. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the jury verdict.

In addition to being a success for the client, this case exemplifies the skills and service FBT provides. Using attorneys from different offices and with different expertise, FBT provides clients with the full service they need from trial to appeal. Both the trial and appellate teams included attorneys from the Cincinnati and Louisville offices. DickGoehler of our Cincinnati office provided his experience in defending defamation claims, and SherylSnyder of our Louisville office provided his experience in appellate practice in Kentucky state courts. This case is just one example of how FBT’s regional approach and collaborative effort among attorneys ensure that our clients receive the attention and expertise they deserve.

Dismissal of Dentist’s Defamation Lawsuit Against I-Team, Sources Upheld on Appeal

The First Amendment, Media, and Advertising Law practice group won a hotly contested defamation case brought by a dentist against WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, Ohio.[1] The Ohio appellate court affirmed the trial court’s summary judgment dismissal of Fuchs' defamation case.

Fuchs, a dentist, alleged that the station’s investigative broadcasts revealing volumes of customer complaints about his “McFuchs” dental business caused him damage. Fuchs and his dental practice decided to sue only former patients and former employees for statements they made that were included in five WCPO broadcasts about his billing practices and customer service. In an unusual move, WCPO asked the court to allow it to become a defendant to support its sources and defend its broadcasts. This strategy proved successful as FBT successfully defended WCPO at the trial and appellate court levels.

In affirming the decision in favor of defendants, the Ohio appellate court stated:

The media has great freedom in this country because we value its watchdog role. Yet the public’s “right to know” must be balanced by an individual’s privacy interest—and it is where these intersect that the courts must be careful to balance both interests.

Here, a TV station did investigative reporting. It was sued for defamation. We hold that the trial court was correct in granting summary judgment to the station because it acted reasonably.

[1]Fuchs v. Scripps Howard Broadcasting Company dba WCPO-TV, No. C050166 (Oct. 13, 2006).

Additional Documents:

  • Advertising 2-7-07