Libel suit over acknowledgement in Sinatra book dismissed for failure to prove harm
CALIFORNIA — In early January a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco (9th Cir.) upheld the dismissal of a libel suit brought by a lawyer against author Kitty Kelley because the lawyer did not prove that he was actually harmed.
Milton A. “Mickey” Rudin sued Kelley after she listed him as one of 611 sources in a biography about singer Frank Sinatra. Among the claims in the biography, Kelley wrote that Sinatra had an affair with former first lady Nancy Reagan while her husband was president. Both Sinatra and former President Reagan have denied the claims in Kelley’s book.
Rudin, who was a lawyer for Sinatra for many years, contended that the book was part of the reason that his law practice collapsed 18 months after Kelley’s book was published.
The Court of Appeals ruled that Rudin could not prevail on a libel claim because he failed to present evidence that the book caused him to lose business. The court affirmed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment for Kelley.
Rudin claimed that he had refused to help Kelley with the book and that Kelley had falsely implied that he provided her with confidential information by listing him as a source for her book.
The court found that people who knew individuals listed as sources would probably realize that not all the individuals listed provided confidential information or endorsed the book. The court noted that the list of sources in Kelley’s book also included some of the Reagans’ closest friends. (Rudin v. Kelley; Media Counsel: Bradley Phillips, Los Angeles)