Entertainment & Sports Law

Judge tosses defamation suit by Yankees fan caught napping on camera

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A New York judge has tossed a defamation lawsuit filed by a Yankees fan caught napping on camera at an April 2014 game.

Judge Julia Rodriguez dismissed the suit by fan Andrew Robert Rector in August, the Smoking Gun reports. Reuters, the New York Daily News and the New York Post followed with stories.

Rector’s suit had claimed ESPN announcers disparaged him, saying he was “oblivious” and “this is not the place you come to sleep.” A partial clip was later posted at MLB.com and YouTube.

Rodriguez said none of the commentators’ statements could be considered false, which is a necessary element of a defamation action. Nor was the depiction of Rector unauthorized, the judge said in the Aug. 17 decision. “Indeed, it is a common practice during baseball games and other public sporting events to depict spectators on camera. At worst the announcers’ might be considered to be loose, figurative or hyperbolic statements which are not actionable.”

Rector had argued the posted clip “set the stage” for others to comment and defame him. But Rector did not cite legal authority that the defendants could be liable for the online comments of third parties, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez also dismissed Rector’s claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, saying none of the announcers’ comments amounted to extreme and outrageous conduct that is necessary for the cause of action.

Rector’s lawyer, Valentine Okwara, told Reuters he advised his client that “there is room for appeal.”

The clip:

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