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Court Dismisses Avenatti Defamation Suit Against Fox News

Michael Avenatti in Los Angeles 2018
Michael Avenatti (Image credit: Luke Harold/Wikimedia Commons)

A judge has ruled in favor of Fox News in rejecting a defamation suit by attorney Michael Avenatti, granting Fox's request that the suit be dismissed.

The suit was dismissed without prejudice, meaning Avenatti could refile the suit.

Fox had reported in 2018 that Avenatti had been arrested and accused of domestic violence. The judge concluded that Fox's reporting was basically accurate, and so rejected Avenatti's $250 million claim of defamation.

“We are pleased with the Court's swift decision in favor of Fox News,” the programmer said in a statement. “Today's ruling is a victory for journalists everywhere, who should not be intimidated into silence when bullies like Michael Avenatti file baseless multimillion-dollar lawsuits.”

Judge Stephanos Bibas of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Delaware said the gist of Fox's coverage was correct, and that any minor mistakes were insufficient to overcome the basic truthfulness of that coverage.

“Avenatti dislikes how Fox News covered his arrest. But he cannot overcome the truthfulness of the gist of Fox’s coverage — he was, after all, arrested for suspected domestic violence,” the judge said. “Plus, he has not shown that Defendants knew, or deliberately ignored, any inaccuracies in their reporting. And he expressly disclaims the need to allege special damages, as he must under California law.”

But then the judge gave Avenatti a sliver of hope. “Perhaps Avenatti can cure the actual malice and damages defects for some of his claims,” Bibas said. “So I will dismiss his complaint without prejudice.“

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.