Is It Really Libel and Defamatory? : Howard K. Stern, Plaintiff v. Rita Cosby and Hachette Book Group USA, Inc. , Defendants A country; particularly the United States, legal infrastructure is a key factor in the media’s ability to fulfill their “watchdog” function. However, most of the 1990s had completely lacked a legal base that would allow non-governmental media to defend their newfound abilities to present alternative and often critical points of view.
New legal rulings and laws passed during the past ten years now protect more of the media and publication houses and allows them to bring in new technical ways of supporting their publications and any evidence they might have. One of the most popular types of cases being brought to court against the new media and publication houses are libel and or defamatory suits; no matter how insignificant. A recent libel and defamatory case that has been brought to court where Howard K. Stern who is the plaintiff is suing a publishing company in New York along with Rita Cosby who published a book based on a celebrity’s nanny(s) claimed information.
For background information, Howard K. Stern was a friend, lawyer and previously thought father of Vickie Lynn Marshall’s (otherwise known as Anna Nicole Smith) daughter. Which was later proven false based on DNA testing after Smith’s sudden death in early 2007. The libel suit was filed on October 2, 2007 after Cosby’s book Blonde Ambition was published this past September and became a bestseller and was based on what the nanny(s) had witnessed in Smith’s life as her child’s nanny.
Stern’s case alleges that some of the passages within the book, especially the passage where Stern is named along with Larry Birkhead; who is the father of Smith’s daughter, claims that both were engaging in sexual intercourse on tap that Smith was reportedly watching. Stern affirms that he has never engaged in any type of sexual intercourse with Birkhead and that no video tape even exists. He has said that there weren’t even actual interviews conducted between the Cosby the author and nanny(s).
Stern reported that it was all hearsay from the interview the nanny(s) gave to police during Smith’s death investigation. Stern then ordered a preliminary injunction enjoining the defendants from interfering with fact witnesses and destroying or altering any evidence. He also then asked for an expedited discovery based on the fact that Cosby attempted to pay off nanny(s) for their testimony, which is supported by transcripts between Cosby and the nanny(s) representative(s). Stern is seeking no less than 60 million dollars in punitive and compensatory damages.
The legal issue at point in this case goes perfectly in hand with what is related to the course information I am currently learning in Mass Media Law here at Florida Atlantic University. Based on information learned through class lectures with power points and chapters four through six of the assigned text, I understand how the case with Stern is established as a libel case and whether he is in fact libel proof or not and if the defamatory statement is an actual raised point based on the passage within Blonde Ambition.
Because of the course material that relates to this case, I understand that Stern is some what of a public official due to the fact that he is a famous lawyer and the information alleged in the book can harm is career. However, due to the case proceedings and media attention during the DNA testing to find out who the father was of Smith’s daughter, Stern also became an limited purpose public figure as he threw himself into the spotlight; which doesn’t help his case and makes him look money hungry then and now.
My thoughts on this case is that I believe that Stern does have a case based on what he affirms to be true and that there is evidence and or transcripts that the author has tried to “pay off” the nanny(s) testimony so she could win. Unless other witnesses or the actual video tape of Stern and Birkhead having sexual relations comes to light, I believe that Stern has a valuable case and will most likely win. What kind of publishing company publishes a book without checking the correct sources and getting a signed witness account with all the scrutiny already placed on this celebrity or accounts she was involved with?
But because there is a pending change due to the fact that there is an expedited discovery order anything could surface and change how the case will conclude. In brief, the fact of the matter in this case is that because of new law proceedings and the growing number of libel and defamatory suits there are, courts have established new ways to establish who is or who is not libel proof and how much the media can be involved before the court has to outlay rulings to keep them away. Bibliography Stern v. Cosby. 2007. West Law Database