Share This Post
St. Pete Times loses $10M libel suit
A jury Friday awarded the former head of the Bay Pines VA Medical Center $10 million as part of a libel suit filed against the St. Petersburg Times, the newspaper said.
Dr. Harold L. Kennedy had sued the newspaper, owned by Times Publishing Co., in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court in 2005 claiming three stories written by the newspaper in 2003 and 2004 contained defamatory statements against him.
“We are very disappointed by the verdict,” Neil Brown, the executive editor and a vice president of the Times said in a story that appeared in his paper Saturday. “We believe our reporting and editing of these stories met the highest journalistic and ethical standards.”
Reporter Paul de la Garza, who died in 2006, wrote the three stories prompting Kennedy’s suit claiming his reputation was damaged. The articles claimed the chief of medicine was under federal investigation on charges of misusing money and sexual harassment, a review of the published articles online shows.
Timothy Weber of Weber, Crabb & Wein PA in St. Petersburg argued that de la Garza did not care for Kennedy’s reputation when publishing the articles, according to the Times, while the newspaper’s attorney challenged Kennedy to prove the allegations as being false.
The jury of two men and four women agreed with Kennedy. It awarded $5.1 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.
“What the Times published was true,” the newspaper’s attorney Alison Steele said, according to the Times’ account of the case. The reporter’s notes were excluded from the trial, which lasted five days.
Times Publishing does plan to appeal the verdict, the Associated Press reported Monday.
Kennedy was “pleased to regain his good name,” the Times report said. He now consults in Europe for the Cardiovascular Research Foundation and lives in St. Louis, according to his attorney.
Originally published in the Tampa Bay Business Journal