Wednesday, August 16, 2006

S.C. Court of Appeals issues opinion on actual malice standard

In Metts v. Mims, the state Court of Appeals decided a defamation case and issued guidance on what is actual malice. The case concerned a newspaper article regarding county officials using county work crews to perform work at the officials' residences. Metts's claim of actual malice in this case hingedon the reporter's failure to investigate allegations that Mett's used the work crews at his house even though the reporter received a list of offending officials that did not contain Metts' name. The Court of appeals found no actual malice:

Newspaper is a small weekly publication, and the evidence reveals the reporter received the list a few hours before the deadline for submitting final articles. We agree with the circuit court that the evidence indicates the reporter failed to investigate due to time constraints and a number of other obligations, including numerous editorial and administrative tasks. Although the reporter's actions may have been negligent, we cannot say that they constituted an extreme departure from the standards of investigation normally employed by publishers so as to rise to the level of constitutional actual malice.

Hence, the grant of summary judgment to the newspaper was affirmed.

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