Jury awards $985,000 for headline error
INDIANA — An Albion jury awarded a restaurant operator $985,000 in damages in late March in a libel suit over an inaccurate headline, the Associated Press reported.
In 1988 the newspaper, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, reported on the closing of one of four Bandido’s restaurants. At one inspection of the Bandido’s restaurant, the local board of health had found evidence of flies, roaches and rodents. A second inspection before the closing found some health code violations, but no evidence of insects or rodents.
The newspaper’s headline read: “Health Board Shuts Doors of Bandido’s; Investigators Find Rats, Bugs at North-Side Eatery.”
In a subsequent story, the Journal-Gazette acknowledged an error in its first headline, and said that no evidence of rats was found at the restaurant.
Bandido’s sued the newspaper for libel in state court in Albion in November 1988. Although the trial court awarded the newspaper summary judgment, in July 1991 an appeals court in Indianapolis ruled that factual questions existed as to whether the newspaper had printed the headline with reckless disregard for its falsity, and sent the case back for trial.
(Bandido’s Inc. v. Journal Gazette Co. Inc.; Media Counsel: John Walda, Fort Wayne)
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.