Law School Case Brief
McKee v. Cosby - 874 F.3d 54 (1st Cir. 2017)
An appellate court reviews de novo the district court's grant of a motion to dismiss a defamation suit. The appellate court accepts as true the complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations, and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.
Plaintiff Kathrine McKee filed a defamation lawsuit in federal district court against defendant William H. Cosby, Jr., whom she had accused in a 2014 interview published in the New York Daily News of raping her. McKee based her defamation claim on the the content of a purportedly confidential letter penned to the New York Daily News by Cosby's attorney. McKee further alleged that copies of the letter were leaked and reported on by news outlets and websites worldwide, which harmed her reputation. The district court granted Cosby's motion to dismiss, primarily on First Amendment grounds. McKee appealed.
Did the district court err in holding that the letter sent to New York Daily News which stated that McKee lacked credibility in general and with regard to the alleged rape did not constitute defamation?
The appellate court held that McKee failed to show defamation from the letter. McKee became a limited-purpose public figure by thrusting herself into the public controversy concerning the web of sexual assault allegations against Cosby, and the letter adequately disclosed underlying non-defamatory facts.
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