Texas Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Fort Bend Defamation Case February 23, 2016
HOUSTON – The Texas Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in a defamation lawsuit filed against a Houston-area newspaper and a reporter who wrote a false story attacking the local chief deputy sheriff and his son. The reporter, who previously worked at the sheriff’s department, blamed the chief deputy when she was fired after he wrote her up for poor job performance.
Attorneys from Houston’s Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing PC, or AZA, originally won a $1.1 million verdict on behalf of plaintiff Wade Brady in 2011 against the West Fort Bend Star and reporter LeaAnne Klentzman. AZA attorney Jane Langdell Robinson is representing Mr. Brady before the Supreme Court.
The newspaper and Ms. Klentzman published a 2003 article that, among other things, falsely accused the former Fort Bend County chief deputy sheriff of a cover-up related to criminal charges filed against his son Wade Brady. Ms. Klentzman joined the newspaper after being fired from the sheriff’s department.
The 2011 jury verdict favoring Mr. Brady initially was affirmed but, on rehearing, sent back for retrial by Houston’s 1st Court of Appeals. Now, the Texas Supreme Court has agreed to consider the case, which includes the First Amendment question of whether the lower appellate court erred by holding that the story about Mr. Brady was a legitimate matter of public concern since he was not a public official like his father.
The issue may have significance well beyond Mr. Brady’s case since whether a newspaper article is of public concern can change the standard of proof needed to recover for defamation. The Supreme Court also may look at whether the lower appellate court erred by saying legally sufficient evidence supported the awarding of actual damages.
To see Law 360’s coverage of the case, click here: “Texas Supreme Court Takes Up Newspaper Libel Case” (subscription required).
“The lower appellate court was clearly struggling with this issue. That court first came out on our side and then reversed. The case has a unique set of facts since the journalist wasn’t really interested in the truth or in our client, she was interested in getting back at his father,” Ms. Robinson told Law360.
The case is Wade Brady v. LeaAnne Klentzman and Carter Publications, No. 15-0056.
AZA, or Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Mensing, is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, intellectual property and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized in Chambers USA 2016 among the best in Texas commercial law; U.S. News & World Report and The Best Lawyers in America as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms; Texas Lawyer as the 2015 Litigation Department of the Year and Law360 as a Texas Powerhouse law firm. National corporate counsel named AZA both one of the country’s best in client service and one of the most feared. Read more at https://azalaw.com.