Jackson Walker Wins Dismissal of Business Disparagement Lawsuit Against ProPublica and The Texas Tribune

May 24, 2024 | Client Results

Jackson Walker has won a significant victory for leading nonprofit news organizations ProPublica and The Texas Tribune. On May 22, 2024, the Third Court of Appeals in Austin ordered the dismissal of a 2022 lawsuit alleging business disparagement, tortious interference, and civil conspiracy claims based on an investigative article about local governments’ response to COVID-19 and an entrepreneur’s attempts to market his company’s medical services during the early days of the pandemic. The article, based on dozens of interviews and review of hundreds of emails and other documents, was co-published through the ProPublica-Texas Tribune Investigative Initiative, a first-of-its-kind collaboration in which both organizations work together to publish investigative reporting for and about Texas.

ProPublica and The Texas Tribune defended the truth of their reporting and the public’s right to be informed about the actions of their elected representatives. They also argued that plaintiff MRG Medical’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations. The court of appeals agreed, rejecting the plaintiff’s attempts to creatively plead around the one-year statute that governs claims sounding in defamation. The court ordered the dismissal of MRG’s claims and remanded the case to the district court to consider our clients’ request for court costs, attorney’s fees, and sanctions.

Jackson Walker partner Marc Fuller, who represented the media clients with attorneys Maggie Burreson and Joshua Romero, stated, “We are pleased to have defended these two leading news organizations in protecting their First Amendment right to pursue the truth. This is a significant win for investigative journalism and the public’s right to know.”

The case is Texas Tribune, Inc.; Pro Publica, Inc.; Vianna Davila; Jeremy Schwartz; and Lexi Churchill v. MRG Medical LLC, No. 03-23-00293-CV, on appeal from the 345th District Court of Travis County. For more information about the lawsuit, view the articles published by ProPublica and The Texas Tribune.

Meet Our Team

Marc Fuller Marc Fuller represents publishers, internet companies, and other businesses in a variety of commercial disputes. His media litigation experience includes defamation, privacy, copyright, and other disputes over content and newsgathering. He has extensive experience representing technology companies and online services in disputes over content moderation, user anonymity, and digital privacy. Marc has also handled a broad range of litigation for nonmedia companies, focusing on appeals, class actions, and First Amendment matters. He has authored amicus briefs in media and First Amendment cases in the Texas Supreme Court, Fifth Circuit, and U.S. Supreme Court.
Maggie Burreson Maggie I. Burreson is a litigation associate who focuses on handling media and entertainment disputes for journalists, news outlets, and other media organizations. She has represented her media clients in numerous defamation, libel, and business disparagement suits. Maggie has helped author numerous amicus briefs in media and First Amendment matters in the Fifth Circuit. She also represents businesses in a variety of nonmedia matters, with a particular emphasis on class actions and appeals.
Josh Romero Joshua A. Romero is a trial and appellate lawyer who has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in state and federal courts across the country in complex commercial litigation and First Amendment litigation. Josh has successfully tried cases ranging from multimillion-dollar corporate disputes and consumer fraud cases to construction cases. In 2015, he assisted his clients in obtaining the largest settlement in Texas and the fourth largest settlement in the United States, as featured in the National Law Journal.

Founded in 1887, Jackson Walker has grown to become the largest law firm in the state of Texas. With about 30% of the Firm’s more than 500 attorneys practicing litigation, Jackson Walker has one of the largest trial practices in the Southwest and was identified among the top law firms “Most Feared in Litigation” by BTI Consulting Group in 2022 and 2023. For over 115 years, Jackson Walker’s Media Law group has represented clients in the television, radio, newspaper, magazine, and publishing sectors related to litigation and transactional matters involving news content, employment, entertainment, intellectual property, advertising, and other related matters. To learn more about our experience defending First Amendment rights, visit the Trial & Appellate Litigation and Media Law practice pages.