Jackson Walker Successfully Defends ‘The Dallas Morning News’ Against Defamation Lawsuit Related to Dallas Lawyer’s Suspicious Death

July 19, 2018 | Client Results

Jackson Walker partner Paul C. Watler successfully defended A.H. Belo Corporation against a defamation suit over articles published in The Dallas Morning News reporting on the investigation of the murder of Dallas lawyer Ira Tobolowsky, who died in an arson house fire in 2016.

The suit was brought by a Dallas lawyer who claimed the newspaper defamed him in articles that allegedly implicated the lawyer in the death of Tobolowsky. The Dallas Court of Appeals held that the newspaper articles did not contain any false statements of fact.

On July 5, 2018, the Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the defamation case against Belo. The court held that the trial court properly granted Belo’s motion to dismiss under the Texas Citizen Participation Act, which permits dismissal of a case relating to “a party’s exercise of the right of free speech.”

Examining nine specific statements from the articles in The News, the court found that the appellant did not establish clear and specific evidence that any of the statements were false. Additionally, the court held that the “gist” of the articles considered on the whole was also not false.

According to the opinion, the gist of the articles included “that Ira Tobolowsky died under suspicious circumstances, law enforcement were investigating his death, [appellant and another] were being investigated but that [the persons under investigation] had not been charged with a crime.”

Assisting in defending Belo in the lawsuit was Jackson Walker associate Lindsey Marsh.

Meet Our Team

Paul C. Watler is a board-certified Texas civil trial lawyer widely-recognized for First Amendment, media law and “bet-the-company” commercial cases.  Paul’s court victories range from opening up Love Field in Dallas for long-haul airline service to winning one of the most frequently-cited Texas Supreme Court opinions on media libel law. Paul has successfully represented numerous newspapers, television stations, media companies, websites and journalists in libel, anti-SLAPP (Texas Citizens Participation Act), public information, invasion of privacy, copyright, news gathering and commercial lawsuits. Paul has been listed in Best Lawyers in America since 1995.  He is currently among a select few lawyers recognized in five categories: commercial litigation, bet-the-company litigation, First Amendment law and Litigation – First Amendment.

Lindsey Marsh is an associate in the litigation section of Jackson Walker. Lindsey is a trial attorney with extensive experience in litigating complex commercial and media law matters, including commercial landlord-tenant disputes, breach of contract, defamation, breach of fiduciary duty, misappropriation of trade secrets, and unfair competition cases.

Meet JW

Founded more than 130 years ago, Jackson Walker is one of the oldest and largest Texas-based law firms. Today, the Firm has more than 375 attorneys in seven Texas offices and represents Fortune 500 companies, multinational corporations, media organizations, major financial institutions, insurance companies, and a wide range of public companies and private businesses around the globe. While Jackson Walker proudly calls Texas home, our attorneys are licensed throughout the U.S. and have experience in developed and emerging markets worldwide.

In This Story

Lindsey Marsh Brown
Partner, Dallas
Paul C. Watler
Partner, Dallas