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Three Amigos SJL Rest., Inc. v. CBS News Inc. - 2015 NY Slip Op 06409, 132 A.D.3d 82, 15 N.Y.S.3d 36 (App. Div.)

Rule:

An allegedly defamatory statement made about an organization is not understood to refer to any of its individual members unless that person is distinguished from other members of the group. Likewise, where an allegedly defamatory statement is directed at a company, it does not implicate the company's suppliers, partners, vendors or affiliated enterprises even if they sustain injury as a result.

Facts:

CBS News, Inc. (defendant) reported accurately that federal authorities raided The Cheetah Club because they believed it to be run by the Mafia and part of an international human trafficking operation. Various entities provided management and promotional services to the club as independent contractors. Those entities and certain members of the entities’ management team (plaintiffs) brought a defamation suit against CBS. The plaintiffs alleged that CBS, by reporting that the club was run by the Mafia, effectively stated that the plaintiffs were in the Mafia. One of the members of the management team filed an affidavit stating that the individual plaintiffs were members of a small group that effectively ran the club. CBS filed a motion to dismiss. The trial court granted the motion. The plaintiffs appealed.

Issue:

Did the court properly dismiss the defamation claims?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The trial court properly granted defendants' motion to dismiss defamation claims asserted by plaintiffs, corporations and individuals, because the challenged news reports concerning a federal investigation of crime families that allegedly transported illegal aliens to work as dancers in strip clubs were not "of and concerning" plaintiffs, as a matter of law, since the public at large would have no reason to think that they were implicated in the investigation.

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