On Aug. 31, 2023, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that Taft’s clients, Gannett Co., Inc., the IndyStar, and the Associated Press, did not libel the National Police Association (NPA) by refusing to remove articles from their websites about concerns voiced by multiple police departments about the NPA’s fundraising practices, or for reporting on NPA’s separate effort to sue several police officers that expressed such criticisms.
NPA did not sue these media outlets for the original act of publishing these online reports, which were based on, among other things, police alerts and interviews critical of NPA’s fundraising mailers. That was fatal to NPA’s claim for defamation, and the Seventh Circuit declined to permit NPA to save its suit under a “novel” and “bespoke” legal theory, which wrongly attempted to premise liability on events that occurred well after the articles were first published online.
Taft partner Timothy Eaton argued the case before the Seventh Circuit. The Taft team also included partners Lynn Rowe Larsen, Tracy Betz, and Daniel Bryan.
In a statement to Law360, Larsen commented that “The IndyStar and Gannett are pleased that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in a victory for the press and the public it serves, has rejected the defamation lawsuit brought by the Indianapolis-based National Police Association. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of the National Police Association’s defamation action and validated the ‘single publication rule,’ which limits liability to the first publication of a work [and] has been applied to online material across the country.”
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Eaton is firm-wide co-chair of Taft’s Appellate practice and a partner in Taft’s Chicago office. He has a distinguished career in commercial and appellate litigation and has been involved in a number of high-profile cases. He has tried cases in both state and federal courts and before arbitration panels for over 40 years.
Larsen is firm-wide co-chair of Taft’s Commercial Litigation practice and a partner in the Cleveland office. Her experience representing media clients also involves a variety of First Amendment work including defending defamation actions and commencing mandamus actions for public records.
Betz is a partner in Taft’s Commercial Litigation practice in Indianapolis. She provides strategic and timely advice regarding contract disputes, creditors’ rights and collections, intellectual property, trade secret management, non-compete, and securities issues.
Bryan is a partner in Taft’s Commercial Litigation practice in Cleveland. He has represented clients in complex business litigation, class-action defense, and defamation-related matters.
The case is National Police Association Inc. v. Gannett Co. Inc., et al., No. 22-1639.