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

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  1. Libel and Privacy
    NMU         U.S.

    NMU         U.S. SUPREME COURT         Libel         Feb 28, 2000    

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

  • The high court let stand a federal appellate decision that a financier failed to prove knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth in a “20/20” story.

The U.S. Supreme Court will not review an appellate court’s decision to overturn a $10 million defamation judgment that was awarded over an ABC broadcast about a real estate scheme. 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.

An episode of ABC’s “20/20” allegedly portrayed BFC and Levan as unfairly taking advantage of investors in limited partnerships in real estate by inducing them to participate in transactions known as “rollups,” in which real estate was swapped for BankAtlantic bonds at the height of the savings-and-loan crisis.

BFC and Levan claimed that ABC made false and misleading statements in the broadcast with actual malice.

(Levan v. Capital Cities, Inc./ABC, Inc.; Media Counsel: Floyd Abrams, New York City)

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