An appeals court upheld a judgement for MARC client WPIX

Appeals Court Rejects Single-Publication Challenge In Libel Case Against WPIX TV

A New York appeals court has ruled in favor of a television station sued over a seven-month delay in removing an erroneous story. The court determined that the case did not create a separate cause or grounds for declaring the station grossly irresponsible.

In rejecting the libel plaintiff’s argument, the New York Appellate Division, First Department, reaffirmed the state’s Single Publication Rule and the notion that the media has no legal duty to correct previously acquired inaccurate information.

MARC partner Bruce S. Rosen and associate James Harry Oliverio represented TV station WPIX and reporter Magee Hickey in the case, Starlight Rainbow v. WPIX, Inc. et al.

On Jan. 23, 2020, the appeals court upheld summary judgment awarded to the station. The trial court had found the defendants were not grossly irresponsible when they inaccurately reported the first name of a white Brooklyn teacher who allegedly bullied an African-American student. The 2014 piece was broadcast and posted on WPIX’s website. 

In covering the story, Hickey twice asked the alleged victim’s mother the first name of the teacher and was told it was Starlight. 

Hickey said she asked the city’s Department of Education to confirm the name but got no comment, and tried to ask other parents, students and teachers but the school told her not to interfere. She did not call the school because she knew school personnel do not comment on such matters.

Other media later reported the teacher’s name was Cynthia Rainbow. A Brooklyn teacher named Starlight Rainbow heard about the story five months later, said she contacted the station – though it did not have a record of that correspondence – and sued in 2015. WPIX removed the story from its website five days later.

The state Supreme Court found Hickey had no reason to suspect the name she obtained was incorrect. The appeals court affirmed.

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