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Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co.

Melissa A. Hale

ProfessorMelissa A. Hale

CaseCast "What you need to know"

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Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co.
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    Brief Fact Summary. Milkovich (Petitioner) brought suit against Lorain Journal Co. (Respondent), when it published an article, which implied Petitioner had lied under oath in a judicial proceeding.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The First Amendment does not preclude a newspaper from being sued for libel, when a plaintiff can show that statements published were an attack on reputation.

    Facts. Milkovich was the wrestling coach at Maple Heights High School in Ohio. During the 1974 season, the team was involved in an altercation at a home match, during which several people were injured. After the altercation, the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OSHAA) placed the team on probation. Then, several parents and students sued the OSHAA, in the Court of Common Pleas, seeking a restraining order of the probation, on the grounds that due process had not been afforded to the members of the team. The court overturned the conviction and, the next day, Respondent published an article alleging that Petitioner had lied so the probation would be overturned. Petitioner brought suit, alleging defamation.

    Issue. Whether a newspaper can be held liable for defamation, when it publishes an article about a private figure which, albeit opinion, was designed as a character attack?

    Held. Reversed.
    * The Court reversed the lower court ruling that the article constituted a constitutionally protected opinion, and held that while the First Amendment does guarantee uninhibited speech, the important social values underlying the law of defamation recognize a strong interest in preventing and redressing character attacks.

    Discussion. The First Amendment gives great leniency to newspapers and their journalists; however, the constitution also recognizes that defamation can exist, when an article is published specifically to attack another’s character.


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