Florida Judge Dismisses Professional Golfer’s Lawsuit

May 8, 2009

A Florida state court judge has granted summary judgment to a Florida newspaper, effectively dismissing a lawsuit brought by professional golfer John Daly, who claimed one of the columnists libeled him in a column.
In so ruling, Duval County Circuit Judge Hugh Carithers found that the alleged defamatory statements in the column were opinions based upon disclosed facts, and that Daly failed to produce any evidence of actual malice on the part of the defendant.
The column, which was written by Mike Freeman during The Player’s Championship in 2005, assailed Daly with the following passage:
“How does Daly not fail the scoundrel sniff test with fans despite possessing definite Thug Life qualifications. Look at the Daly blog. Domestic violence accusations? Yup. Substance abuse issues? Unfortunately, three different kids from three different moms, making him the Shawn Kemp of golf? Yes. A former wife indicted for laundering illegal drug profits? Roger that.”
While abrasive, Carithers noted that Freeman’s opinions were based upon disclosed facts:
“The only possible basis for a defamation action would be if Daly proved that one of the four underlying facts was false, but there is no genuine dispute with respect to any of the underlying facts.”
The court also wrote that Daly’s case would have failed for another reason.
“Under the First Amendment, public figures in defamation lawsuits are required to prove actual malice by clear and convincing evidence,” the judge wrote, adding that “there is no evidence of actual malice, much less ‘clear and convincing’ evidence.”


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