Those who accuse CNN and other mainstream media outlets of “fake news” will probably revel in a recent decision by a federal judge in Atlanta, Georgia. While Judge Orinda Evans didn’t all out declare that CNN was peddling in falsehoods, she did take aim at the network in an initial judgment in favor of a former hospital CEO who sued CNN accusing them of purposely skewing statistics to reflect poorly on a West Palm Beach hospital. Judge Evans didn’t mince words in her 18-page order allowing the case to move forward, and dismissing CNN’s attempt to get it thrown out of court.
Davide Carbone, former CEO of St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, filed a defamation lawsuit against CNN after they aired what he claims were a “series of false and defamatory news reports” regarding the infant mortality rate at the hospital. CNN’s report said the mortality rate was three times the national average. However, Mr. Carbone contends that CNN “intentionally” manipulated statistics to bolster their report. He also claims that CNN purposely ignored information that would look favorable to the hospital in order to sensationalize the story. “In our case, we contended that CNN essentially made up its own standard in order to conduct an ‘apples to oranges’ comparison to support its false assertion that St. Mary’s mortality rate was 3 times higher than the national average. Accordingly, the case against CNN certainly fits the description of media-created ‘Fake News.’” said Carbone’s attorney L. Lin Wood, in a statement to LawNewz.com.
Wood says that as a result of CNN’s story Carbone lost his job and it became extremely difficult for him to find new employment in the field of hospital administration.
“False and defamatory accusations against real people have serious consequences. Neither St. Mary’s or Mr. Carbone did anything to deserve being the objects of the heinous accusation that they harmed or put babies and young children at risk for profit,” Wood said.
On Wednesday, Federal District Judge Orinda Evans ruled that the case could move forward, even ruling that she found that CNN may have acted with “actual malice” with the report — a standard necessary to prove a defamation claim.
“The Court finds these allegations sufficient to establish that CNN was acting recklessly with regard to the accuracy of its report, i.e., with ‘actual malice,” the order reads. CNN had tried to get the case dismissed. It’s not a final judgment. The decision allows the case to go forward on the plaintiff’s defamation action, and the judge found a strong possibility than CNN might lose on the actual malice standard. CNN lost on its motion to dismiss. Nothing has been decided yet on the merits but if CNN wants to be looked at as an accurate and credible news organization this doesn’t help.