The Third Department determined plaintiff’s libel complaint was properly dismissed. The defendant newspaper published an article about plaintiff’s conviction in a mortgage fraud prosecution which was based upon a press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ). Civil Rights Law 74 prohibits a civil action against the publisher of a fair and true report of a judicial proceeding. The Third Department explained that minor inaccuracies will not prevent the characterization of an article as fair and true:
Civil Rights Law § 74 provides, in relevant part, that “[a] civil action cannot be maintained against any person, firm or corporation, for the publication of a fair and true report of any judicial proceeding” and, as such, “cloaks those publishing fair and true reports of judicial proceedings with immunity from civil liability” … . “[A]n article may be characterized as ‘fair and true’ if it is substantially accurate” … . Moreover, “[a] fair and true report admits of some liberality; the exact words of every proceeding need not be given if the substance be substantially stated” … and “there is ‘no requirement that a publication report the plaintiff’s side of the controversy'” … . Minor inaccuracies are “‘not serious enough to remove [a party’s] reportage from the protection of Civil Rights Law § 74′” … .
In light of the foregoing standard, we agree with Supreme Court that defendants’ published statements were a fair and true representation of the DOJ press release, thus falling within the statutory privilege afforded by Civil Rights Law § 74. Although defendants used language that differed slightly from the DOJ press release in their article, given plaintiff’s criminal charges and convictions detailed in the press release, the language used “does not suggest more serious conduct than that actually suggested in the official proceeding” … . A liberal reading of defendants’ statements in the context of the article demonstrates that the statements are substantially accurate and, thus, a fair and true report of the DOJ press release … . Bouchard v Daily Gazette Co., 2016 NY Slip Op 01364, 3rd Dept 2-25-16
DEFAMATION (MINOR INACCURACIES WILL NOT PREVENT CHARACTERIZATION OF AN ARTICLE ABOUT A JUDICIAL PROCEEDING AS FAIR AND TRUE)/LIBEL (MINOR INACCURACIES WILL NOT PREVENT CHARACTERIZATION OF AN ARTICLE ABOUT A JUDICIAL PROCEEDING AS FAIR AND TRUE)/CIVIL RIGHTS LAW (LIBEL, MINOR INACCURACIES WILL NOT PREVENT CHARACTERIZATION OF AN ARTICLE ABOUT A JUDICIAL PROCEEDING AS FAIR AND TRUE)