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March 2012

Articles & Reports – Litigation Committee – Jury Instruction Manual

PUBLICATION:
in this issue

XI. Other

XI .A.    Agency This action is brought by William Lansdowne, plaintiff against Peter Phipps, The Akron Beacon Journal, and other employees of the Akron Beacon Journal, defendants, upon the claim that defendants negligently made a false publication concerning plaintiff.  It is also claimed that the false publication proximately caused injury to the reputation of plaintiff. …

X. Damages Explained

X. A.    Actual and Compensatory 1.    Generally I will now instruct you on the subject of damages. The fact that you are instructed on damages is not to be considered by you to suggest that you must consider damages. If you first find defendants liable to plaintiff in accordance with these instructions, you must, of…

IX. Defenses

Editor’s Note:  Whether a statement initially is the subject of a privilege, especially an “absolute” privilege, should be a question of law for the court. If a privilege is conditional and therefore can be overcome by a showing of actual malice or some other factor spelled out in state or common law, the court should…

VIII. Fault

VIII. A.    Negligence Negligence, for the purposes of this case, means the failure on the part of the Defendants to exercise that degree of care which ordinarily prudent persons engaged in the same kind of business usually exercise under similar circumstances. —    Mitchell v. Griffin Television (Okla.) (C) Plaintiffs are required to prove by clear…

VII. Opinion

A threshold question which you must determine is whether the statements complained of are statements of fact or expressions of opinion. If you find the statements complained of to be statements of opinion, then you must return a verdict for the defendant regardless of any other of your findings. This is so because a statement…

VI. Falsity

VI. A.    Plaintiff’s Burden of Proof An essential element of libel is that the statement published was false. Consequently, if the statement was in fact true, there can be no libel, regardless of defendant’s motivation. The plaintiff has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence all of the facts necessary to establish that…

V. Defamatory Meaning

V. A.    Generally A communication is defamatory if it tends to expose a person to hatred, ridicule or contempt – that is, if it tends to harm the reputation of that person so as to lower him in the estimation of the community or to deter others from associating or dealing with him. Not every…

IV. Plaintiff’s Status

IV. A.    Public Figure Plaintiff Editor’s Note:  The issue of whether a plaintiff is a public figure is ordinarily a question of law to be determined by the trial court. There have been rare cases in which trial courts have submitted this issue to the jury for determination. Before there can be any liability on…

III. Of And Concerning

III. A.    Generally Yet another “element” of the libel claim that each plaintiff must prove is that the statements complained of were, in fact, reasonably understood by the reader as referring to that particular plaintiff. Some of the statements at issue in this action do not mention any of the plaintiffs by name. Rather, they…

II. Publication

Editor’s Note:  The Lansdowne instruction tells the jury that a publication is a communication made to someone other than the person defamed. The Prozeralik instruction combines the definition of publication with the plaintiff’s burden of proof to show that the defendant published the statements. Plaintiff must prove by a fair preponderance of the credible evidence…

Table of Cases

Alphabetical by Case Name   AAA All City Air Conditioning v. New World Communications Ohio Common Pleas, Cuyahoga County 2003 Case No. CV-369034   Court’s Charge Amedure v. Schmitz Michigan Superior Court, Oakland County 1999 Case No. 95-49536-NX   Boddie v. American Broadcasting Co. U.S. District Court (N.D. Ohio 1982) Civil Action No. C80-675A Court’s…

Jury Instruction Manual 2012

Download Publication In 1984, the Media Law Resource Center (MLRC; then known as the Libel Defense Resource Center) initiated a jury instructions project in response to the disturbing number of libel jury verdicts against media defendants. The primary goal of the project was to provide defense counsel with guidance on formulating more effective jury instructions….

I. Introductory Material

I. A. Role of the First Amendment. Editor’s Note: These instructions largely address the balance struck by New York Times v. Sullivan and its progeny between an individual’s interest in protecting his reputation and society’s interest in a free press. Now, again, I’d ask you to just put your questionnaire down for a minute and…