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Network settles hidden camera claim for $900,000

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From the Spring 2000 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 17.

From the Spring 2000 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 17.

ABC paid more than $900,000 in early February to settle a privacy claim brought by a California “telepsychic” whose conversation with an undercover reporter was included in a “PrimeTime Live” story, according to the Associated Press.

The California Supreme Court had held in July 1999 that privacy claims can be brought even if there is only an “expectation of limited privacy,” and had told the lower courts to determine whether such an expectation existed in this case.

In 1993, ABC reporter Stacy Lescht secretly videotaped conversations with Mark Sanders as part of an undercover investigation of fraud in the “telepsychic” industry. (Sanders v. American Broadcasting Cos.)

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Rejection of $10 million award against ABC won’t be reviewed

The U.S. Supreme Court in late February declined to review an appellate court’s decision to overturn a $10 million defamation judgment that was awarded over an ABC broadcast concerning real estate transactions. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta (11th Cir.) in late September vacated the award to Alan Levan and BankAtlantic Financial Corporation (BFC) and instructed the District Court to dismiss the claim against ABC.

According to the appellate court, the defamation claim failed because the evidence presented did not establish that ABC broadcast the story with actual malice — knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth.

BFC and Levan alleged that a “20/20” segment on the bank’s “rollups,” in which real estate was swapped for BankAtlantic bonds at the height of the savings-and-loan crisis, indicated that they unfairly took advantage of investors. (Levan v. Capital Cities/ABC)