Media & Communications Law
Golfer John Daly Loses Libel Suit; Newspaper May Seek Defense Costs
Posted Mar 24, 2009 12:11 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
After four years of litigation, a Florida newspaper and its columnist, Mike Freeman, have won a libel suit filed against them by pro golfer John Daly over a 2005 column that discussed his alleged "thug-life qualifications." (They reportedly included that he had been accused of domestic violence and that he had had three children by different women; a subsequent clarification in the newspaper after the original column indicated Daly was married to their mothers.)
The comments made are either true or constitutionally protected opinion, held Duval County Circuit Judge Hugh Carithers, who sits in Jacksonville, as he granted a defense motion for summary judgment. However, he said in a written opinion, "the First Amendment leaves it to the reader, not the courts, to assess the quality of the author’s judgment,” reports the Florida Times-Union, which was the defendant in Daly's lawsuit.
Another judge had earlier declined to dismiss the litigation, but Carithers' ruling reportedly followed an admission by Daly that he had, in fact, been accused of domestic violence, according to attorney George Gabel, who represents the newspaper.
Daly's lawyer, Lydia Jones, says the golfer hasn't yet decided whether to appeal, but otherwise declined to comment, according to the paper.
Frank Denton, an editor at the Times-Union, said the newspaper intends to seek reimbursement of litigation costs from Daly. Although the article doesn't expressly explain the claimed basis for doing so, it appears that the newspaper may intend to argue that the litigation was frivolous and seek legal fees reimbursement as a sanction since each side ordinarily bears its own costs.
“This has been a long and unnecessary process, but in the end it supports the importance of a free and unfettered press,” Denton tells the Times-Union.
Associated Press: "Daly loses suit against Florida newspaper"
Times-Union (2005): "Golfer Daly files lawsuit against T-U"