Q: Many of my patients are celebrities. Some of them say that I have over-prescribed medications. Some time ago, the Medical Board began proceedings to revoke my license for gross negligence. Immediately, my license controversy was a matter of public knowledge.
A year ago, the local tabloid said that my license has already been pulled – which I guess is slang for revoked. Three months later, they published a retraction, admitting that no revocation had as yet taken place.
A: You are what is called, in defamation law, a public figure. You have to convince the jury that the paper’s inaccurate statements were published with ‘actual malice’. Failure to employ fact-checkers, and failure to verify the status of your license prior to publication, are not enough. The law is that proof of mere negligence does not suffice to establish ‘actual malice’ – unless the failure to investigate is so gross as to be willful avoidance of knowledge.
Yes, the tabloid could have consulted accurate articles and cannot explain how its error occurred. One can even find a so-called ‘journalism expert’, who for a price will give his opinion that no rational journalist could have made the same mistake. But this cannot dislodge the First Amendment. It enshrines this country’s commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, wide-open, and robust.
By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial
The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.
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