Court sends libel suit back for trial
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — The U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, (3rd Cir.) in mid-April reversed a grant of summary judgment to the Virgin Islands Daily News in a libel suit.
The suit arose from a 1989 article that gave the incorrect impression that Gabriel St. Surin, an official with the Department of Public Works, would soon face federal criminal charges. A prosecutor had told the paper only that “some action” would occur in a week.
St. Surin was never charged with a federal crime, although administrative sanctions against him were later proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The appeals court ruled that summary judgment for the newspaper was improper because the article was not substantially true, and the paper may have published the information with reckless disregard for the truth.
The appeals court also held that before the district judge ruled on the summary judgment motion, the judge should have considered St. Surin’s motion for an extension of discovery and given St. Surin an opportunity to respond to the merits of the summary judgment motion.
(St. Surin v. Virgin Islands Daily News, Inc.; Media Counsel: Adriane Dudley, St. Thomas)