Jackson Walker Successfully Defends Oprah Winfrey

March 2, 1998 | Client Results

On February 26, after a six-week trial, a jury in Amarillo, Texas, returned a take-nothing verdict in the trial brought by two Texas cattlemen versus Oprah Winfrey and Harpo Productions, declaring that she and her production company had not falsely disparaged the plaintiffs’ cattle during the April 16, 1996, The Oprah Winfrey Show. Jackson Walker attorneys comprised Winfrey’s defense team in the suit brought under the so-called ‘veggie libel’ law, a new Texas statute designed to protect perishable agricultural products from disparagement.

After the plaintiffs rested their case, the Honorable Mary Lou Robinson declared that they had not proven their case under the standards set by the ‘veggie libel’ law, but that the trial would continue on a common law business disparagement claim.

Throughout the defense case, Oprah’s attorneys concentrated on issues which would prove to the jury that the talk show host, her production company, and her guest had a First Amendment right to express their opinions and honestly held beliefs.

Winfrey dedicated her February 27 show, one of the last she would broadcast from Amarillo, to the outcome of the trial. During the show, she praised the work of Chip Babcock and the entire defense team, quoting numerous lines from Babcock’s closing argument.

Charles L. “Chip” Babcock led the defense team and was assisted by partners Nancy W. Hamilton, Leslie Garcia Ashby, and David T. Moran and associate John Edwards.

Jackson Walker has 125 years of experience in providing legal counsel to clients throughout Texas, the United States, and internationally. The firm provides a strong regional base of more than 350 attorneys in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Angelo, San Antonio, and Texarkana.