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Judge tosses libel counterclaim against legal secretary who criticized her former firm before suing

Posted Jan 24, 2014 6:40 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A legal secretary who criticized her former law firm in a newspaper article was protected by the fair report privilege, a Manhattan judge has ruled.

Judge Shlomo Hagler found that Theodora Benedict’s remarks were a fair report of an age and disability claim she made with New York’s Division of Human Rights in November 2007, the New York Law Journal reports. She spoke with a New York Post reporter about the agency proceeding before filing suit in November 2009.

Benedict was diagnosed with facial cavity cancer in October 2007 and says she was fired from her job at Tarnow & Juvelier two hours after informing the firm, according to the New York Law Journal account. She got her job back soon after filing the bias claim with the state in November 2007, but she lost her job once again when the firm dissolved soon afterward, she says. Benedict claimed the name partners started two new law firms, one in New York and one in Florida, rehiring everyone except herself.

When Benedict sued the dissolved firm and the new firms, the defendants filed a libel counterclaim. The defendants said the firm dissolved because of disputes between the name partners, and Benedict rejected a job as an employee of one of the name partners in a different corporate entity.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Legal Secretary Sends E-Mail About Cancer Surgery, Is Fired, Suit Says"

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