High Cost of Libel

Archive Report

Era of ’Mega-Judgments’

Recent Multimillion-Dollar Libel Awards

Libel, ever the publisher's nightmare, became front-page news last March when entertainer Carol Burnett won a $1.6 million judgment against The National Enquirer. The spotlight beamed on the Burnett case illuminated not a singular incident, but an apparent trend that adds a new and costly dimension to the already thorny problem of libel litigation. Juries seem more willing to “punish” offending publications with multimillion-dollar libel judgments. As one reporter described it, we may have entered a new era: “the era of mega-judgments.”1

The verdict against the Enquirer did not in itself raise much controversy, even within a journalistic community that is jealously protective of its right to publish. The Enquirer, a Florida-based tabloid specializing in sensational stories about celebrities, is ...

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