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Surfer loses libel lawsuit

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  1. Libel and Privacy
A federal jury in Hawaii ruled in favor of The Surfer's Journal last week in a libel lawsuit that had been brought by…

A federal jury in Hawaii ruled in favor of The Surfer’s Journal last week in a libel lawsuit that had been brought by a surfboard shaper, according to the Pacific Business News.

In the suit, plaintiff Craig Elmer "Owl" Chapman alleged that an article in the magazine presented a "ridiculously extreme portrait" of him as, in the Pacific Business News’ words, a "destitute, drug-using social outcast." According to the news outlet, the magazine piece was based on notes a Surfer’s Journal reporter took in the mid-1990s when he ordered a surfboard from Chapman, as well as from interviews with other surfers who have dealt with Chapman. The case was reportedly the first libel suit to go to trial in Hawaii since the 1970s.

“It’s a complete victory for the defendants and a strong affirmation of the media’s right to write about public figures,” Jeffrey Portnoy, managing partner of Honolulu law firm Cades Schutte, which represented the magazine, told Pacific Business News. “We’re tremendously excited. There aren’t too many libel jury verdicts, especially in Hawaii, and this one is one of the few.”