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Trial court dismisses ABC from libel suit

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  1. Libel and Privacy

    NMU         MINNESOTA         Libel         Feb 20, 2001    

Trial court dismisses ABC from libel suit

  • A local hotel operator may take to trial his case against the woman who said during a televsion interview that he knew of ongoing sexual harassment, a state judge ruled.

A Minnesota trial court granted summary judgment for ABC and dismissed it from a libel case brought by local hotelier Gus Chafoulias on Feb. 14. Judge Joseph Wieners of Olmstead County District Court ruled that Chafoulias failed to produce evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that he could prove his allegation that ABC made statements with actual malice.

“PrimeTime Live” aired a show in 1997 detailing sexual harassment lawsuits brought by female employees at the Radisson Hotel in Rochester, Minn. The lawsuits alleged Chafoulias and the Radisson Corp. knew about the harassment by male guests but took no action.

In 1998, Chafoulias sued the show and the women’s attorney, Lori Peterson, for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Peterson said in an interview with the show, “Chafoulias knew. Chafoulias has known for years that these women were being attacked, harassed, raped.”

On Dec. 1, 2000, Wieners ruled that Chafoulias was a “limited purpose” public figure because he voluntarily took part in the public controversy surrounding sexual harassment lawsuits at his hotel.

In its most recent decision, the court ruled that Chafoulias can proceed to trial against Peterson.

(Chafoulias v. Peterson; Media Counsel: Thomas Tinkham, Dorsey & Whitney, Minneapolis, Minn.; Henry Hoberman, New York) DB

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