The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined plaintiff, an editor, did not sufficiently allege the reporters who wrote a story about the company where plaintiff worked acted in a “grossly irresponsible manner,” the standard for defamation in this context:
Plaintiff, who at the time of the article was employed by BDG Media as the editorial director of the digital media website Gawker, alleges that the article contained misleading excerpts of her communications with her colleagues at Gawker, omitting relevant context in order to inaccurately portray her as racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and transphobic. Plaintiff further alleges that the statements published in the article were false, misleading, or, to the extent they contained literal truth, taken out of context to place her in a defamatory light. Plaintiff maintains that … BDG Media terminated her employment as a result of the article.
… [P]laintiff’s defamation cause of action withstands dismissal only if she adequately alleges that defendants, all of whom are members of the media, “‘acted in a grossly irresponsible manner without due consideration for the standards of information gathering and dissemination ordinarily followed by responsible parties'” in writing and publishing the article … The “gross irresponsibility standard demands no more than that a publisher utilize methods of verification that are reasonably calculated to produce accurate copy” and does not require “exhaustive research [or] painstaking judgments” … . Furthermore, the alleged falsity or defamatory meaning of certain statements is not probative of whether defendants acted with gross irresponsibility … . Griffith v Daily Beast, 2023 NY Slip Op 02614, First Dept 5-16-23
Practice Point: Where matters of legitimate public concern are implicated, a plaintiff alleging defamation by reporters must allege the reporters violated the “gross irresponsibility standard;” the complaint here failed to do so.