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Neiman-Marcus v. Lait

    Brief Fact Summary. The Defendants, Lait and others (Defendants), wrote an article making accusations about three groups of employees at the Plaintiff, Neiman-Marcus’s (Plaintiff), department store. Plaintiff and representatives of each of these groups brought a libel suit.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A large group of individuals cannot bring a libel claim unless the allegedly libelous statement makes specific defamatory statements against an individual member of the group.

    Facts. The Defendants were the authors of a book entitled U.S.A. Confidential. The book made claims against Plaintiff who operated a department store in Texas. Plaintiff alleges that the article libeled and defamed three groups of its employees. Plaintiff sued in the following groups: (1) Nine individual models that constitute the entire group of models; (2) Fifteen salesmen suing on behalf of twenty-five salesman; and (3) Thirty saleswomen suing on behalf of 382 saleswomen.

    Issue. Can a designated group of individuals sue for libel when less than all of the designated group are libeled?

    Held. No. Complaint dismissed with leave to file separate complaints.
    * It was alleged that most of Plaintiff’s salesmen were gay. This is not a cause of action in New York, and Defendants’ motion to dismiss as to this claim is denied.
    * The allegations against Plaintiff saleswomen were general allegations against an extremely large group. No specific individual is named in the statement. No case has been cited that that would support a cause of action by a member of any group of such magnitude. This Court holds as a matter of law that no reasonable man would take the writer seriously and conclude that the publication references any individual saleswoman. This court grants the two other groups leave to file separate complaints.

    Discussion. If a single member of a large group presents particular circumstances that point to that member as the person defamed, that individual may have a cause of action.



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