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Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. Jacobson

Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. (Plaintiff), sued the Defendants, Walter Jacobson and CBS, Inc. (Defendants), for defamation for running a broadcast that accused the Plaintiff of attempting to market cigarettes to children.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. There is a privilege for fair and accurate summaries of, or reports on, government proceedings and investigations. An unfair summary carries a “greater sting” than the government proceedings or investigations.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

Words are libelous per se if they are so obviously and naturally hurtful to the person aggrieved that proof of their injurious character can be, and is, dispensed with.

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Facts. The Plaintiff produced Viceroy cigarettes. The Plaintiff sued the Defendants for airing a broadcast. The broadcast was aired after the Defendant discovered a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) staff report. The report made a loose assertion that the Plaintiff’s proposed advertising strategy attempted to attract young smokers. Before the broadcast, the Plaintiff told the Defendant it had rejected these proposals and fired the person who made them. In the broadcast, the Defendant, after stating that pushing cigarettes on television is prohibited, announced his theme: “Television is off limits to cigarettes and so the business, the killer business, has gone to the ad business in New York for help, to the slicksters on Madison Avenue with a billion dollars a year for bigger and better ways to sell cigarettes. Go for the youth of America, go get ’em guys.

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