Saturday, August 24, 2013

Former Trail Blazer's 'Bankruptcy-Case' Dismissed on Appeal (Sorry Scottie, Please Don't Sue Me)

By Michael Fuller, Portland Trial Attorney

Scottie Pippen vs. NBC (7th Cir. August 21, 2013)
Pippen, Before and After He Was Poor
Retired six-time NBA champion and former Portland Trail Blazer Scottie Pippen sued NBC for falsely reporting he had filed bankruptcy.

Pippen's lawsuit alleged that in 2011, a cnbc.com article listed him as one of '15 Athletes Gone Bankrupt'.

NBC didn't deny its news report was false. Nonetheless, it argued Pippen's lawsuit should be dismissed because, among other reasons, Pippen is a public figure and its false reporting about him wasn't malicious.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with NBC and affirmed dismissal of Pippen's lawsuit.

The Court reasoned that while NBC failed to follow journalistic standards before falsely reporting Pippen was bankrupt, it didn't knowingly defame him or recklessly disregard the truth.

The Court cited New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964) for the general rule that public figures must prove malicious intent in order to claim defamation.

Read the full opinion for complete analysis: http://www.courthousenews.com/2013/08/23/pippen.pdf

Commentary: Poor Scottie Pippen. I don't blame his lawyers; it was a close call and probably worth appealing. But now until forever, Google will link "Pippen" with "Bankruptcy" and his future as a commentator with NBC or Comcast is likely soured.

Substantively, falsely labeling a celebrity as "bankrupt" seems like defamation per se to me, although in this case Chief Judge Easterbrook was bound by Illinois state case law.

Prediction: 10 years from now Wikipedia describes Pippen as "one of the great all-time small forwards in the NBA ... whose personal life was eventually plagued by divorce and bankruptcy."