Title: Federal Judge Dismisses Defamation Lawsuit Against Golf Channel and Media Outlets
Date: Sep 28, 2023
Source: ESPN Senior Writer – Mark Schlabach
In a significant development, federal judge Timothy J. Corrigan of the Middle District of Florida dismissed professional golfer Patrick Reed’s $750 million defamation lawsuits against the Golf Channel, several of its commentators, and other golf writers and media outlets. The dismissal was based on the judge’s ruling that Reed failed to present sufficient evidence of actual malice on the part of the defendants during their commentary about him.
Reed, a player in the LIV Golf League, had lodged complaints against multiple parties alleging defamation, conspiracy, injurious falsehood, and tortious interference. The lawsuits were filed during the height of the PGA Tour-LIV Golf feud in Texas in August 2022 and later refiled in Florida.
Judge Corrigan’s 78-page ruling stated that Reed’s complaints did not adequately prove that the defendants had acted with actual malice when making comments about him. While Reed made references to over 50 allegedly defamatory statements, many of these statements were not specifically about Reed himself. Some pertained to LIV Golf as a whole, while others were matters of opinion or permissible rhetorical hyperbole. Additionally, certain statements of fact were deemed unchallenged.
Reed’s frustration with negative media coverage was acknowledged by the judge, but under Florida law and the First Amendment, Reed’s defamation claims were deemed insufficient. As a result, the judge dismissed the case, stating that Reed’s lawsuits failed to meet the required pleading of actual malice.
Judge Corrigan’s ruling left open the possibility of the defendants seeking recovery of attorney’s fees and court costs from Reed. The defendants in the case included the Gannett Co., The Associated Press, and Fox Sports.
Since the beginning of the legal battle, Reed had accused the defendants of engaging in anticompetitive practices to crush LIV Golf and its players, including himself. Reed’s attorney, Larry Klayman, issued a news release stating that the defendants had labeled Reed as a cheater, liar, thief, murderer, and as someone who accepted blood money from terrorists.
Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, has faced disciplinary action from the PGA Tour after competing in LIV Golf tournaments without proper release. As a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour, Reed has earned over $37 million during his career.
The dismissal of Reed’s defamation lawsuits is a significant development in the ongoing legal dispute between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. It underscores the challenges faced by athletes seeking legal claims against media outlets and highlights the importance of meeting the legal standard of actual malice in such cases.
It remains to be seen whether Reed will pursue further legal action or if this ruling will conclude his battle against the defendants named in his defamation lawsuits.