Judge orders new trial in Masson case

Libel | Feature | September 14, 1993

CALIFORNIA -- U.S. District Court Judge Eugene F. Lynch ordered a new trial in the labyrinthine libel case pitting psychoanalyst Jeffrey M. Masson against author Janet Malcolm. Masson had sued Malcolm for libel, claiming she had fabricated quotes attributed to him in her series published in the New Yorker magazine in 1983.

In his early September ruling, the San Francisco judge also dismissed the New Yorker from the case, and ordered Masson to pay the magazine an estimated $20,000 in court costs, the New York Times reported.

Although a jury found in June that Malcolm had defamed Masson, it deadlocked on the issue of damages. Judge Lynch wrote in his September ruling that the issues of liability and damages are sufficiently linked that they could not be severed for a new trial, the Times reported.

Judge Lynch agreed with the jury's finding that the New Yorker was not liable because Malcolm was an independent contractor and the magazine did not know of any falsity, the Times reported.

The highly publicized case arose from Malcolm's profile of Masson -- formerly the projects director of the Sigmund Freud Archives. The San Francisco jury had found that two of the quotations attributed to Masson were fabricated and libelous.

Masson's lawyer, Charles O. Morgan, told the Times that the lawyers had been discussing a possible settlement.

(Masson v. Malcolm; Media Counsel: Gary L. Bostwick, Santa Monica)