“Denver city council candidate [Fry] caught up in plagiarism charge.” That headline landed The Denver Post in court for defamation. It started with a questionnaire answered by a Denver City Council candidate that appeared to be plagiarized. The candidate, upon reviewing the Post’s information, agreed, confessed, contacted the person from whom she took her responses and apologized. Afterwards, the Post ran the headline. Buried deep in the article, it quoted Fry: “I would never intentionally lift from another source and should have been more careful.” The district court found that the article was not false simply because it omitted the fact that Fry admitted her mistake. The court of appeals conducted a detailed exegesis of the article and agreed with the trial court. It held that an average reader would not conclude that ‘caught up’ and ‘charge’ suggested a crime. Case dismissed.
Tag Archives: Matter of Public Concern
“[T]here is great general interest among television viewers in fascinating true stories with interesting characters and real life dramas … this case certainly has those elements.” A producer of a TV episode called Tragedy in Telluride said that about the facts of this case. In that episode, Sam Shoen implied his brother Mark Shoen, both part of the U-Haul family, was involved in the murder of Sam’s wife. Mark sued Sam for defamation and lost. The court of appeals first held that Mark waived a choice-of-law issue that Colorado defamation law should not apply because the issue was not raised prior to the trial court ruling on dispositive motions. Second, it held that Sam’s statements on TV about the murder of his wife, including criticizing the adequacy of the investigation, were matters of public concern, and thus Mark was required to prove defamation by clear and convincing evidence.