New York high court breathes new life into libel suit against medical examiner
NEW YORK — In late October, New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals in Albany, reinstated a libel suit filed against the New York Times by the former medical examiner of New York City.
The medical examiner, Dr. Elliot M. Gross, sued the Times after it published a series of articles in 1985 and 1986 in which critics of Dr. Gross accused him of misconduct. Although several government investigations found neither professional misconduct nor criminal wrongdoing, Mayor Edward I. Koch dismissed Dr. Gross in 1987, the Times reported.
New York’s lower courts had determined that the articles contained constitutionally protected expressions of opinion about a public official. But in a 5-0 ruling in late October, the Court of Appeals held that the articles did contain assertions of objective fact, which if proven false could support a libel claim.
Leon Segan, an attorney for Dr. Gross, said he would now seek depositions and notes from the New York Times reporters who produced the stories, the Times reported.
Floyd Abrams, a lawyer for the Times, maintained that “the articles are fully supportable and we will vigorously defend the accuracy of the articles as published,” the Times reported.
(Gross v. New York Times Co.; Media Counsel: Floyd Abrams, New York)