Statements critical of psychologist not ‘provable fact’
CALIFORNIA–The U.S. Court of Appeals in Pasadena (9th Cir.) upheld a lower court’s ruling dismissing libel claims against the critic of a psychologist’s theories, finding that all but one of the allegedly defamatory comments were statements of opinion and not assertions of verifiable fact.
Additionally, the psychologist failed to offer evidence that the lecturer acted with actual malice — knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard of the truth — with regard to the one verifiable factual comment made by the lecturer, Kim Oates, at a 1992 San Diego lecture. Oates told the conference that Underwager’s book questioning child testimony in molestation cases was commissioned by a “consortium of insurance companies defending defendants so it was a biased book.” Oates relied on a Washington State Supreme Court opinion for that fact and had no reason to believe it was wrong, the court held.
Oates replayed a portion of a “60 Minutes” of Australia broadcast from August 1990 which showed several American lawyers and psychologists dispute and discredit Underwager’s theories and credentials. Underwager sued “60 Minutes” of Australia, Oates, and the other critics.
The lower court’s dismissal of Underwager’s case against the other defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction was also upheld by the court’s decision. (Ralph Underwager v. “60 Minutes” of Australia, et al; Media Counsel: Lawrence R. Levin, Chicago)