What will Wall have to prove to establish her libel suit?

OCA Assignment #2

Answer the following questions. You will need to use information found in chapter 4 of the textbook to answer the questions. Answer in complete sentences. Upload your answers (using Word document) under ‘Assignments.’ This assignment will be due by 11:59PM.

1. Early one morning, a 911 operator received a telephone call from a distraught woman who reported that she was hearing disturbing noises—crying and screaming—coming from a small day care center adjacent to her house. Workers at the 911 operation center notified a city social services agency of the report. But they also passed on the information from the call to a local television (TV) station, WIXR, because they believed that the social services agency was lax in its enforcement policies regarding day care centers. The TV station sent a crew to talk to the owner of the day care center, Melinda Wall, and outlined the concerns that had been reported to the crisis center. Wall declined to comment. That night the TV station broadcast the following report:

· A city social services agency is reportedly looking into allegations of children crying and screaming in the Happy Days Day Care Center at 1456 Marblehead Way.

· A neighbor reported the unusual sounds to a 911 operator, which in turn contacted the agency and this station. An agency spokesperson reported that its investigators are looking into the possibility of improper behavior by the day care center’s staff as the cause of children’s crying and screaming.

· Happy Days Day Care Center is owned and operated by Melinda Wall, who refused to comment about the allegations. The center has been open for six months. Prior to that, Wall operated a similar center in Toledo, Ohio, for two years. The State of Ohio revoked Wall’s license in 2006 when it found unsanitary conditions at the day care center.

The television report generated considerable publicity about the center and its owner, with more television reports and newspaper stories. But an investigation by the social service agency revealed that nothing illegal or dangerous was occurring at Happy Days. The noise reported by the neighbor came from a video on a television. The sound from the video resonated throughout the neighborhood because one of the children had turned up the volume.

Wall sued WIXR for libel because of its initial report. She argued that it contained numerous errors and that the WIXR’s employees had been negligent in preparing the story. She cited the following errors:

· Happy Days had been open for 16 months, not 6 months.

· Wall operated a day care center in Toledo, Washington, not Toledo, Ohio.

· Her license for that facility was not revoked. The state merely refused to renew the license unless Wall added additional bathroom facilities at the center, and she could not afford to do that.

a. What will Wall have to prove to establish her libel suit?

b. Will Wall win her case?

2. An unusual yet heavy snowstorm had hit Portland, Oregon, in December. It had paralyzed the city for several days. The citizens and the press had criticized the city’s public works department because they failed to clear the snow on the roads. This resulted in slippery roads that led to pedestrians getting injured and cars getting damaged. Businesses also incurred losses because their customers could not travel downtown. The Portland Patriot was especially brute in criticizing the workers of the public works department in their editorials. One of them is as follows:

Here it is the 21st Century and the city’s road crews can’t even handle a simple snowstorm. How many dollars were lost by businesses because their customers couldn’t get downtown? How many cars were damaged and pedestrians injured because of the slippery roads and sidewalks? And how many members of the road crews sat on their duffs, in cafes, drinking coffee and eating donuts, while their plows were parked for long periods on the streets outside, while the rest of us struggled to go on with our lives. Their actions were criminal, causing untold harm to hundreds of people. Supervisors reported all crews were working 16 hours a day. But there is ample evidence that many of these workers simply sat on the sidelines, waiting for the snow and ice to melt. It is time to take action against these incompetent clods; fire the whole bunch.

The city had employed eighty-seven workers to clear the ice and snow off the roads. Seven of them had filed a libel suit against the Portland Patriot for condemning the workers. The workers argued that the following charges are defamatory: their actions were criminal, they drank coffee and ate donuts instead of doing their jobs, and they are incompetent.

The Patriot raised two arguments in its defense of the libel suit. First, it argued that the city workers are public officials and that they will have to show evidence of actual malice to prevail and win the case. Also, the Patriot argued that the group of 87 members is a large group and that individual members of the group cannot prove their identification. How would a court rule on these arguments?

3. Dr. Russell Nye is one of the nation’s leading experts on breast cancer and mammograms. Since 2008 he has headed a national campaign designed to inform women about breast cancer and urge healthy women to get regular mammograms. Cynthia Adams is the president of “No More Mammograms,” a national organization. Adams is a frequent guest on talk television shows; she uses these public appearances to try to convince women to stop getting mammograms. She writes columns about it as well. She contends that the painful examinations are not reliable tests and that the procedure causes many medical complications. For the past three years, she has also vigorously attacked Dr. Nye, claiming that he ignores the harmful nature of the tests and that he works closely with the industries that create and sell the testing equipment.

After a particularly blistering attack by Adams against Dr. Nye, he lashes out at Adams during an appearance on the “Ellen” program.

He says, “She has no medical or scientific training, she is ignorant of the scientific data. I want to scream because she lies. She claims she wants to protect women. So do I. I care about women. I want to protect them from cancer.”

Adams sues both Nye and the “Ellen” show for libel. She says that while it is true she has no medical background, she has studied the science involved in the tests. And she has never lied; the charge is false and defamatory. How would a court rule on these arguments?

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