Jury awards $7.5 million in libel suit against California newspaper
CALIFORNIA — In early October, a state jury in Los Angeles awarded a businessman $7.5 million in his defamation suit against the Santa Barbara News-Press and its owner, the New York Times Co.
The businessman, Leonard M. Ross, claimed that stories published in the News-Press in 1988 and 1989 falsely reported that the government had investigated him for defrauding investors, the National Law Journal reported.
Ross conceded that he had been investigated in the early 1970s, but not for investor fraud; he said that only his former partner was investigated for defrauding investors, the National Law Journal reported. The defendants maintained that their stories were not libelous.
The stories were published when Ross was seeking government approval to increase his ownership of a since-failed savings and loan, the National Law Journal reported.
The jury awarded Ross $5 million for damage to his reputation, and $2.5 million for emotional distress. Rex Heinke, the defendants’ lawyer, said he might appeal if the judge neither sets aside the judgment nor orders a new trial, the Associated Press reported.
(Ross v. Santa Barbara News-Press; Media Counsel: Rex Heinke, Los Angeles)