Tuesday, August 23, 2005

S.C. Supreme Court issues defamation opinion

In Anderson v. The Augusta Chronicle, the Supreme Court upheld a court of appeals decision reversing a directed verdict in a defamation case brought against a newspaper. The allegedly defamatory editorial stated as follows:

Clearwater Democrat Tom Anderson, running in November’s court-ordered special election for South Carolina’s House District 84 seat, has been exposed as a liar.

He told this newspaper he was called away to National Guard duty in the last weeks of the 1996 election, his first race against incumbent state Rep. Roland Smith, R-Langley. (Anderson lost by a decisive margin.)

It turns out, however, the state Guard has no record of Anderson ever serving – either then or any other time.

The trial judge ruled that Anderson failed to show that the editor responsible for publishing the article knew that information in the article was false and, therefore, there was no issue of fact as to whether the editor acted with "actual malice." The court of appeals reversed.

The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals, holding that there was circumstantial evidence of actual malice.

The AP has this account of the lawsuit.

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