Here is the Top Ten list of “trial awards” in media libel, privacy and related cases, assembled by the Media Law Resource Center:

  1. $222.7 million. MMAR Group, Inc. vs. Dow Jones & Co. This developed after The Wall Street Journal ran an article making allegations about the securities firm and its use of client money. Less than a month later MMAR went out of business. The $222.7 million is the highest award ever from a jury in the reports compiled by MLRC. But a trial court later ruled the plaintiff withheld evidence from the defendant, and the award was erased.

  2. $58 million. Feazel v. A.H. Belo Corp. Dallas’ WFAA-TV reporter Charles Duncan broadcast an 11-part series of stories critical of the local prosecutor, discussing various allegations and a pending federal investigation. Feazell later was indicted on racketeering and bribery charges but was acquitted and sued. The $58 million judgment was on appeal when the case was settled.

  3. $40.3 million. Guccione vs. Hustler Magazine. The magazine published a photograph of a male body which had the head of Bob Guccione, a publisher of various magazines including Penthouse, superimposed on it. The award first was reduced by the court, then reversed and dismissed by the Ohio Supreme Court.

  4. $40 million. Lerman v. Chuckleberry Publishing, Inc. Plaintiff Jackie Collins Lerman was misidentified in two photographs published by Adelina magazine that were culled from the movie “Married Men,” whose screenplay was written by Lerman. The jury awarded $40 million, the court immediately struck $30 million and an appeals court reversed the case and dismissed it.

  5. $34 million. Sprague (II) v. Philadelphia Newspapers. The defendant published several articles linking the plaintiff, a local prosecutor, to an apparent murder coverup. The jury awarded Sprague $34 million, but the court reduced that by $10 million and it ultimately was settled for an undisclosed sum.

  6. $29 million. Srivastava vs. Harte-Hanks. The plaintiff was a heart surgeon when he lost privileges at two San Antonio hospitals. The Harte-Hanks television station reported that revocation and detailed the mishandling of several cases based on information given secretly to the reporter by the plaintiff’s secretary. The station appealed, but settled before that could be heard.

  7. $26.5 million. Pring vs. Penthouse International. A former Miss Wyoming sued Penthouse after the magazine published a short piece describing a Miss Wyoming who engaged in oral sex, alleging the depictions “create the impression” that the story subject was her. The jury awarded her $26.5 million, which was reversed and dismissed on appeal.

  8. $25 million. Graves vs. Warner Bros. (This is wrongful death case, not defamation or libel). Plaintiffs were parents of Scott Amedure, a guest on the Jenny Jones show who was killed days after he revealed a homosexual crush on another male guest during a taping of the show. Jury awarded $25 million in damages.

  9. $24.5 million. Doe vs. TCI Cablevision. Plantiff Tony Twist, a professional hockey player, sued over the character in a series of Spawn comic books. Jury awarded $24.5 million, but that was set aside by the court and a new trial resulted in a $15 million judgment, which was on appeal.

  10. $19 million. Newton vs. NBC. Inc. Wayne Newton accused NBC of broadcasting a news report that created the impression he sought and got financial backing from a man with links to organized crime. The trial court reduced that to $5 million and an appeals court reversed and dismissed the case.

Here is the Top Ten list of “final awards” in media libel, privacy and related cases, assembled by the Media Law Resource Center. All of these cases involve libel, except one which is noted:

  1. $58 million. Feazell lvs. A.H. Belo Corp.

  2. $29 million. Svivastava vs. Harte-Hanks. Settled for $8.5 million.

  3. $24 million. Sprague (II) vs. Philadelphia Newspapers. Settled for estimated $20 million.

  4. $13.5 million. Newcome & Assoc. vs. Plain Dealear Publishing Co. Settled for unknown amount before appeal.

  5. $11.9 million. Lee vs. Duddy.

  6. $11 million. Prozeralik (II) vs. Capital Cities/ABC, Inc. Settled for unknown amount.

  7. $5.9 million. Cramlet (II) vs. Multi-Media Program Productions. Settled for unknown amount. (This was a claim over interference with parent-child relationship)

  8. $5 million. Nguyen vs. Nguyen

  9. $3 million. Brown & Williamson vs. Jacobson.

  10. $2.9 million. Kentucky Kingdom, Inc., vs. Journal Broadcasting of Kentucky.

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