Jackson Walker successfully defended The Dallas Morning News against a defamation lawsuit regarding a column published in 2010. Applying First Amendment principles, the Supreme Court of Texas unanimously ruled to dismiss the lawsuit on May 11, 2018.
The lawsuit was filed in 2011 by parents who claimed that they were defamed in a Dallas Morning News column entitled “Shrouding suicide leaves its danger unaddressed.” The column disclosed that a paid obituary regarding a popular local high school student omitted that the death was a suicide, stating instead that the death was the result of injuries sustained in a car accident.
In the court’s 41-page opinion, Justice Jeff Brown wrote that the column did not defame the parents because it was “an opinion piece through and through.” The court also held that the column was true, with truth being an absolute defense to defamation.
Representing The Dallas Morning News in the lawsuit was a Jackson Walker team led by Paul C. Watler and Shannon Zmud Teicher. Co-counsel appearing before the Texas Supreme Court were Wallace Jefferson and Rachel Ekery of Alexander, Dubose, Jefferson & Townshend.
Following the case’s dismissal, Paul commented in an article published by The Texas Lawbook, stating:
“Justice Brown’s scholarly opinion is noteworthy in many regards. It surveys and explains libel law in a way that will be instructive for lawyers and judges in Texas for many years to come.”
Law360 selected the case as one of the six most significant cases of the Texas Supreme Court’s 2018 term.
For more information about the case, view the articles published in The Dallas Morning News and Law360.
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The Media Law practice group is one of the most prominent in the country, providing a full range of comprehensive litigation services to its clients. In 2005, the Media Law practice celebrated 100 years of uninterrupted service to our media clients. It began in 1905 with representation of the old Dallas Times Herald and has grown into a practice that is now national in scope. The Firm regularly handles matters from the inception of an idea for a publication through discovery, trial, and any appeals. Our clients include local and regional broadcasters and news organizations, as well as national television networks, news organizations, publishers, production companies, syndicators, and media conglomerates.
For more than 130 years, Jackson Walker has played a vital role in the growth and development of Texas business. Since our founding in 1887, our attorneys have represented some of the most influential companies in the state in key industries that shaped the course of Texas history, including railroads, the media, and oil and gas exploration. Today, we remain firmly rooted in Texas while serving clients around the globe. With more than 375 attorneys in our seven offices, we serve clients in a broad range of practices and industries. Our clients know they can count on us to deliver personalized service, legal experience, and added value.