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Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc. v. Hepps

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Law Dictionary

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Citation. 475 U.S. 1134 106 S. Ct. 1784 90 L. Ed. 2d 330 1986 U.S.

Brief Fact Summary. Hepps (Plaintiff) brought suit against Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc. (Defendant), after it published a series of articles alleging that Plaintiff had links to organized crime, and had used their position to exercise influence over the government.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. A private party cannot bring suit against a newspaper for slander or libel, without bearing the burden of showing falsity and fault, before recovering damages.

Facts. Plaintiff was the principal stockholder of General Programming, Inc. (GPI), a corporation engaged in franchising convenience stores. Defendant published a series of articles, alleging that Plaintiff had exercised undue influence over the governmental using its ties to organized crime. Plaintiff brought suit based on slander. At the jury trial of the matter, a verdict was found for the Defendant. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania remanded the case, holding that it was not unconstitutional to hold that the Defendant must bear the burden of showing the truth of the statements. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Issue. This case considers whether a media defendant must bear the burden of proving the truth of statements it publishes, when they are attacked as libel by a private Plaintiff.
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