Following its 2016 victory before a New Jersey federal court, TMZ Productions, Inc. has once again secured dismissal of a lawsuit claiming it committed libel by reporting on a woman's alleged involvement in an underground drug and prostitution ring; charges she was eventually cleared of.
On October 17, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found that the lower court properly dismissed Janice Lee's defamation claims against TMZ and several other media outlets since the news articles published were protected by New Jersey's fair-report privilege. The fair-report privilege was found to apply because TMZ's article "presented full, fair and accurate reports" of statements made at a press conference and in a press release issued by the New York Attorney General.
The fair-report privilege protects outlets from defamation claims brought over statements made in "a report of an official action or proceeding, or of a meeting open to the public that deals with a matter of public concern."
The "hyperbolic" tone of some of the articles, while distressing to Lee, was not defamation, the court said, and went on to find that Lee also failed to prove that TMZ acted with actual malice when publishing the article.
Further details of this case were reported by Law360.
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