May 13, 2015

A University of Virginia associate dean of students sues Rolling Stone for $7.5 million.

From the complaint:



Read Nicole Eramo's complaint here. And here's the WaPo article "U-Va. dean sues Rolling Stone for ‘false’ portrayal in retracted rape story."

Click on the photo to enlarge and see how different they made her. It's not just the color and the background and the way the pen-holding hand looks more like a thumbs up and the outstretched hand is gone. It's those eyes.

Now, I can't imagine that manipulating a photo into an illustration is a tort... or I missed a big payday when I didn't sue Isthmus for this...



... but the complaint only says that the photo manipulation "demonstrates the lengths [Sabrina Rubin] Erdely and Rolling Stone were willing to go to portray Dean Eramo as a villain." The lawsuit is based on defamation, and you can got to paragraph 210 in the complaint for the full text of the quotes alleged to be false and defamatory. Eramo was said to have done "nothing" in response" to rape allegations and to have "brushed off" the complainant and tried to "suppress" the story to protect UVa's reputation.

Paragraph 203 of the complaint collects the worst of the email Eramo received, e.g., "You are a rape apologist & a FATASS. Enormous Eramo the wretched rape apologist. resign you vile worthless creature."

ADDED: Long but very concise: Eugene Volokh applies defamation doctrine to the specific allegations. Because of free-speech rights, the burdens are Eramo are heavy, and if you look at the particular statements one by one, you'll understand Volokh's bottom line: "Eramo could have a case, but it won’t be an easy one."
The court... will probably throw out the claims based on some of the statements, on the grounds that those statements don’t make factual claims about Eramo... And for the remaining statements, Eramo will have to show that they are false, and show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendants knew the statements were likely false.

I think that Eramo’s strongest claim is about the “Because nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school,” because the allegation is clearly a factual claim about her. But even there, she would have to show she didn’t say it, and show by clear and convincing evidence that Erdely and the Rolling Stone editors knew that she likely didn’t say it, and that Jackie was lying (or misremembering).

27 comments:

clint said...

Interesting that the WaPo chooses to editorialize with scare-quotes around "false" in their headline.

Didn't Rolling Stone retract large chunks of the article? Is the falsity still in dispute?

tds said...

Luckyyy!!! Retirement cash!!!

Bob R said...

So what do the "law talkin' guys" around here think are the suit's chances of success? (Success including either a successful verdict or a big settlement.)

tim in vermont said...

I could almost be a liberal, but I just can't do the hate.

David said...

If you can't stand the heat . . . .

clint said...

Question for the lawyers out there:

What does the phrase "on information and belief" signify?

Does that mean they claim to have supporting evidence for what follows, or that it's a wild-assed guess?

(The phrase occurs in Paragraph 212c of the complaint.)

Ann Althouse said...

@clint It's a phrase that's used when you don't know first hand whether something is true, but you want to allege it as part of what you are relying on in stating your claims.

You are saying that you have heard this and you believe it, which is another way to say that you are not lying, but you could be wrong.

Rusty said...

Why is the Isthmus afraid of smart women?

David Begley said...

1. I kind of like that photo illustration of Ann.

2. When did plaintffs' lawyers start pleading evidence rather than a short and plain statement of the facts?

3. The Dem US Senate candidate in NE is a plaintiffs' lawyer and he cites cases in his Complaints. He did in the Keystone XL case (which he won).

Brando said...

I hope she gets every penny she's suing for. RS deserves a hit over this. She's absolutely right--they just wanted to sell copy and didn't consider journalistic ethics at all. I'd like to see UVA pile on to this one as well, as the RS hit piece surely had some impact on their enrollment numbers.

I also like the vile cluelessness of the sort of people that want more sympathy for rape accusers, then can easily send sexist hate notes to this woman. There is a war on women indeed, it just isn't being waged by who we were told.

David Begley said...

The UVA. chapter of Phi Kappa Psi will be the big winners.

Brando said...

Not enough has been said about the fake name "Haven Monohan". It's up there with Lisa Simpson's fake boyfriend, "Langston Alger". Or Homer's "friend", "Joey Jo Jo Jubadoo".

tim in vermont said...

I don't think it was about selling magazines, but of course one needs to claim a monetary motive, I think it was a case of what is seen in climate science so often "noble cause corruption."

The Drill SGT said...

Bob R said...
So what do the "law talkin' guys" around here think are the suit's chances of success? (Success including either a successful verdict or a big settlement.)


I think RS will settle for their policy limit
----------

David Begley said...
The UVA. chapter of Phi Kappa Psi will be the big winners.


They should, but may not. Volokh said that they may have trouble showing standing. Who personally was injured? How much?



Brando said...

"They should, but may not. Volokh said that they may have trouble showing standing. Who personally was injured? How much?"

Couldn't the frat sue as an organization? They were defamed, which caused them to be shut down for a while, and their house was vandalized. I wouldn't be surprised if this also caused prospective members to decline to join, leading to a dropoff in dues.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Hmmm.... so how often do publications edit photos to make 'crazy eyes?'

traditionalguy said...

Doesn't a female dean of students know that "The personal is political."

She needs re-indoctrination.

Anonymous said...

I read much of the prolix article in Isthmus. There wasn't much evidence presented that our interlocutor was/is an egomaniac (something I think I would have noticed by now). But several things come through loudly in Mr. Craver's article: 1) he's jealous of Althouse' success, 2) he disagrees vehemently with her politics, & 3) he is really mad because he can't get an interview.

Craver seems to miss what should be an obvious fact: an real egomaniac would jump at a chance to talk about herself.

Anonymous said...

I used to read Rolling Stone regularly, mainly to get the latest articles by Hunter S Thompson, then P J O'Rourk. I did note that all along they would over-rate, even extol artists who released records with far-left political themes. And they havn't had a critic for years that actually knows something about music.

Michael K said...

"Who personally was injured? How much?"

I agree with Brando. The fraternity has serious damages going forward, maybe for years. What is their annual budget ?

I hope RS goes broke.

I suspect Erdley still has a job until the suits are settled to keep her from flipping on them.

The Drill SGT said...

Here's Eugene today on Eramo:

6. Summing up: So, as you can see, Eramo could have a case, but it won’t be an easy one. The court (likely a federal court) will probably throw out the claims based on some of the statements, on the grounds that those statements don’t make factual claims about Eramo (but are instead either opinions that show defendants’ evaluation of the matter, or are about the university as a whole). And for the remaining statements, Eramo will have to show that they are false, and show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendants knew the statements were likely false.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/05/12/uva-associate-dean-nicole-eramo-sues-rolling-stone-an-early-analysis/

HoodlumDoodlum said...

And for the remaining statements, Eramo will have to show that they are false, and show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendants knew the statements were likely false.

The sweet smell of discovery?

chillblaine said...

Althouse needs to get down off her high horse.

Bob R said...

After reading Volokh, I think Drill Sgt. has the most likely answer - settlement for the policy limit. I didn't realize she would be considered a public figure. Makes it much harder for her to win. Still, RS would rather this not get to court. It could go pear-shaped for them.

Ann Althouse said...

I think RS should fight and, if it does, it will win.

But maybe they want to just give Eramo money for the sake of their own PR.

Ann Althouse said...

"I read much of the prolix article in Isthmus. There wasn't much evidence presented that our interlocutor was/is an egomaniac (something I think I would have noticed by now). But several things come through loudly in Mr. Craver's article: 1) he's jealous of Althouse' success, 2) he disagrees vehemently with her politics, & 3) he is really mad because he can't get an interview. Craver seems to miss what should be an obvious fact: an real egomaniac would jump at a chance to talk about herself."

Thanks. I agree that the egomaniac theory didn't fit the facts. I'd already done an interview with another Isthmus reporter a few years earlier, and I was bored by the predictable questions like why do you blog and how much time do you spend blogging and what blogs do you read and so forth.

Also, I could tell that Craver was looking for a way to attack me, to say that I'm doing something wrong, by blogging from my office or having ads on the blog or some such thing. Plus, he was a UW student at the time, and if I got into any sort of interaction with him, I'd have felt compelled to behave toward him as a teacher to a student. I would be patient and trying to help him, and that would have exposed me to the attack I believed was in the offing.

Big Mike said...

I think RS should fight ...

You old hippie, you. Keep in mind that it's not the same magazine it was when you and I were young.

But maybe they want to just give Eramo money for the sake of their own PR.

If you mean that they'll give the dean some hush money because a really good plaintiff attorney can make them look even more stupid than they look right now, then I agree. Plus, as I'm sure you're aware being a law professor and such, juries are chancy things. Like what would happen to RS if I was on that jury?

Oh, and as to the Carver interview, there's an old joke about replacing lab rats with lawyers because there are some things even lab rats won't do. But now it turns out that there are some things even a lawyer won't do -- like give an interview to "Isthmus." Glad to know that there's a floor somewhere.