Texas Defamation Roundup: A Topix Scandal & A Sports Showdown

Texas defamation news and lawyer contact information
Texas Defamation News Update

Maybe it’s old fashioned pride or perhaps Texans enjoy a spot of gossip. Regardless, the Lone Star State is birthplace to many defamation lawsuits.

In this blog post, we’ll review a pair of reputation-related cases grabbing headlines in Texas. If you’re ready to speak with a Texas defamation attorney about getting your name removed from a website or litigating against an adversary for posting defamatory statements online, contact Kelly / Warner Law.

Businessman Sues for Online Defamation over Weather Reporter Scandal

Some years back, in Lubbock Texas, a local TV weather woman, Nikki Dee Ray, became entangled in a bit of a selfie scandal. Immodest pics, of what allegedly appeared to be her, were splashed across the Internet. An anonymous leaker had posted the goods on Topix.com, and another unknown person linked local businessman, Chet Pharies, to the scandal.

Pharies sued the anonymous poster (“John Doe”) for online defamation because he felt “his [Pharies’] moral character, in both his private, married life and as a business owner” were being disparaged.

Since the leaker’s real name is unknown, Pharies first secured a court order compelling “John Doe’s” ISP to hand over identifying information. The presiding judge told Suddenlink Communications to give Pharies data that will help unearth the user who linked him to the scandal.

As for Nikki Dee Ray? Well, she left Lubbock a few months back. No word, yet, if she’ll be involved in the suit.

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Texas Football Coach Denied Defamation Trial

For several years, former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach and former ESPN broadcaster Craig James have been entangled in a feud. Call it a typical parent-coach dispute.

The sportscaster’s son, Adam James, played at Texas Tech under Leach and suffered a concussion during his tenure on the team. According to media reports, a doctor allegedly told Adams to sit out a few practices because of a concussion; Leach allegedly punished Adams by making him stand in a dark room during said practices.

At Leach’s insistence, Pincock shared that statement with James. Then he led him off the field to a shed that housed blocking dummies, watercoolers, an ice machine and an ATV. Injured players would sometimes go there to ride a stationary bike. Virtually spotless, the brand-new structure had a tacky, rubberlike floor and an overhead, garage-style pull-down door, as well as a man door on the side. There were overhead lights but no windows. Aided by freshman student-trainer Jordan Williams, Pincock removed anything that James could sit on and made sure the lights were off. He told James that Leach wanted him to remain standing in the dark for the duration of practice. From: http://www.si.com/college-football/2013/09/09/system-leach-excerpt

The situation mushroomed. To shorten a long story, Texas Tech brass asked Leach to leave the football team. Since Leach’s termination was a high-profile sports story, ESPN reported on the event.

In opposition to his termination, and related reporting, Leach filed lawsuits against various parties – including Craig James and ESPN. For what? According to Leach’s lawsuit, Craig James allegedly provided inaccurate information, regarding the incident with his son, to the media outlet.

But so far, Texas judicial officials seem to think little of Leach’s slander case. The trial court and 7th Texas Court of Appeals both dismissed the coach’s action. Furthering, the Texas Supreme Court also denied the case, which pretty much seals its fate. Sure, Team Leach could file another appeal, but it is unlikely.

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Questions for a Texas Defamation Lawyer?

Kelly / Warner supports Texans and Texas-based businesses dealing with defamation and trade libel issues. We help individuals get defamatory information removed from websites, and also work with companies being targeted by overly aggressive competitors.

Contact us to start asking your online reputation legal questions.

Texas Defamation Law Change: Whistleblowing Parameters

Texas defamation law change whistle blowing
Texas’ libel law has been updated.

Texas journalists and bloggers no longer have to cower in the face of whistleblowing reports, because legislators have adopted an amendment to the Texas defamation law. From now on, journalists in the Lone Star State can report on corporate whistleblowing speculations and scandals — without fear of a being slapped with a questionable lawsuit.

Texan Reporters Accused of Defamation on the Regular by Deep Pocketed Parties

All state defamation laws must stick to the framework of the federal standard, but state slander and libel laws tend to feature a twist – a legal accessory that sparkles with regional flair.

For example, in stoic, British-emulating Massachusetts, in some instances, a plaintiff can win a defamation lawsuit even if the defendant is telling the truth. And in no-tattle Texas, state defamation laws meant journalists often held back on stories involving whistleblowers, for fear of being hit with a costly – job threatening – defamation lawsuit.

Defamation Bill Approved By Texas Senate: Affects Whistleblowing Defamation Cases

In 2014, the Supreme Court of Texas made a decision that prompted a law change regarding whistleblowing defamation cases. Due to the language of the law, journalists were being found liable for libel, even when their stories were based on solid reporting. Journalists were being punished, despite engaging in proper due diligence, when their sources got information wrong.

In a way, the previous Texas defamation law was the state’s free speech pink elephant. One of the bill’s authors, Sen. Joan Huffman, articulated the need for the change when she explained: “accuracy in reporting [should be] a defense to libel.”

And from here on out accurate reporting will be an workable defense against defamation in Texas, as the governor signed the bill into law at the end of May.

Speak With A Texas Defamation Lawyer

Though based in Arizona, Kelly / Warner lawyers are licensed to practice in Texas. We have helped hundreds of clients with all manners of online defamation and reputation issues. Contact us to begin the conversation.
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