Media & Communications Law

Law firm sues for libel after their sign was shown on TV show about unrelated insurance fraud probe

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Florida attorney Cory Meltzer and chiropractor Roger Bell have no business connection with criminal defense attorneys Larry Meltzer and Stephen Bell, who operate a law firm in West Palm Beach.

But that didn’t prevent A&E Television Networks LLC and producer Warrior Poets Inc. from featuring the Meltzer & Bell law firm and its signage in an American Takedown documentary about an insurance fraud investigation concerning the other two men, reports the Broward-Palm Beach New Times.

Now, in a lawsuit (PDF) filed last month in federal court, the two attorneys are seeking damages for libel per se.

“The show made it appear that the law firm and Bell and Meltzer were the actual fraudsters, and that the law firm’s location, shown by the sign outside, was where … actual crimes were being committed,” the suit says.

In fact, it appears that attorney Cory Meltzer and chiropractor Roger Bell do not even have a business together, so the show had no reason to make this mistake—if it was a mistake, the law firm contends.

The complaint alleges that A&E, in reckless disregard of the truth, stated to viewers and showed them photos of the firm that “made it appear to the millions of viewers who were watching the show, that the business sign and the physical location of the law firm, (Meltzer & Bell), was the same business location where the [claimed] insurance fraud was being committed.”

Plus, the show also stated that “the law firm was being staked out by the network and police, and that the law firm was committing … crimes,” the suit says.

“Looking at this, how can they not have realized that [Cory] Melzter and [Roger] Bell did not have a law firm together?” attorney Jamie Sasson, who is representing the plaintiffs, told the New Times. “Everyone knows lawyers and chiropractors don’t work together.”

The article doesn’t include any comment from the defendants. However, A&E said in a motion to dismiss an earlier version of the suit that the names of Larry Meltzer and Steven Bell were never mentioned in the broadcast, Jose Lambiet’s Gossip Extra reported in December.

Related coverage:

South Florida Sun Sentinel: “South Florida lawyers, chiropractors accused of insurance fraud”

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