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BRYKS v. CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORP.

June 12, 1996

EPHRAIM BRYKS, Plaintiff, against CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION, NOAH ERENBERG, DANIELLE KEEFLER, HEIDI GRAHAM, and CABLE NEWS NETWORK, INC., Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MUKASEY

 MICHAEL B. MUKASEY, U.S.D.J.

 Plaintiff Ephraim Bryks has sued Cable News Network, Inc. for defamation. Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

 I.

 The facts relevant to the present motion are as follows: On February 28, 1994, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ("CBC") aired a 30-minute investigative report on plaintiff's tenure as principal and teacher at the Herzlia-Adas-Yeshurun Torah Academy, an Orthodox Jewish school in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Compl. P 9) In the report, entitled "Unorthodox Conduct," CBC reporter Danielle Keefler examined allegations that plaintiff engaged in sexual misconduct with students at the Academy during the 1980's. (Id. PP 12-18) On the evening of March 1, 1994, CBC broadcast a one minute, 55 second-long follow-up report (hereafter the "Report") on the allegations. (Hopkinson Decl. P 2)

 CNN's International Desk, as a subscriber to CBC's syndicated news service, obtained a copy of the Report via satellite within a few hours of the initial CBC broadcast on the evening of March 1. The International Desk informed producers at CNN's Headline News Network ("HNN") that the Report was available for broadcast and provided a brief and apparently unrecorded description of the Report's contents. (Hyland Decl. P 5) HNN, which broadcasts 48 separately-produced half-hour news programs each day and often uses reports prepared by outside news sources, requested and obtained a copy of the Report from the International Desk. (Id.)

 Frank Hyland, the producer of the first 13-minute segment of the 1:30 a.m. HNN news program the next morning, decided to run the Report virtually unedited at approximately 1:40 a.m. (Id.) HNN altered the Report only by replacing CBC's short introduction with the following introduction read by HNN anchor David Goodnow: "Police in Canada are investigating charges a rabbi molested children at a Jewish school in Winnipeg. Danielle Keefler reports the suspect is still working with children." (Id. Ex. A)

 Hyland has "no specific recollection" of the Report and does not recall "anyone at Headline News ever discussing whether there was any need to edit or verify the news item." (Id. PP 3, 7) Hyland attests that he and other producers at CNN consider CBC a "consistent and reliable source" of news reports and "a reputable reporting agency." (Id. P 8)

 In an opinion reported at 906 F. Supp. 204 (S.D.N.Y. 1995), familiarity with which is assumed for present purposes, I dismissed plaintiff's claims against CBC, Keefler, and two other CBC employees for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. CNN now moves for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.

 II.

 Subject matter jurisdiction here is premised on diversity of citizenship. 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (1994). Plaintiff is an American citizen and a resident of New York. (Compl. P 3) CNN is a Georgia corporation that maintains its principal place of business in Georgia. (Compl. P 8; Kohler Decl. P 2) Plaintiff claims damages in excess of $ 50,000, exclusive of interest and costs. (Compl. PP 33, 39-40)

 Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

 In a diversity case, a federal court applies the choice of law rules of the forum state. Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496, 85 L. Ed. 1477, 61 S. Ct. 1020 (1941). In tort actions, New York courts apply the substantive law "of the jurisdiction which, because of its relationship or contact with the occurrence or the parties, has the greatest concern with the specific issue raised in the litigation." Schultz v. Boy Scouts of America, Inc., 65 N.Y.2d 189, 196, 491 N.Y.S.2d 90, 94, 480 N.E.2d 679 (1985) (quoting Babcock v. Jackson, 12 N.Y.2d 473, 481, 240 N.Y.S.2d 743, 749, 191 N.E.2d 279 (1963)). In defamation cases, the jurisdiction of the plaintiff's domicile at the time of the alleged defamation usually has the greatest interest in the outcome of the litigation. Reeves v. American Broadcasting Cos., 719 F.2d 602, 605 (2d Cir. 1983); Merrill Lynch Futures, Inc. v. Miller, 686 F. Supp. 1033, 1041 (S.D.N.Y. 1988); Zerman v. Sullivan & Cromwell, 677 F. Supp. 1316, 1318 (S.D.N.Y. 1988); Davis v. Costa-Gavras, 580 F. Supp. 1082, 1091 (S.D.N.Y. 1984); Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 150(2) (1971). That jurisdiction is the place where any injury is most likely to be felt, and accordingly the jurisdiction that will have the greatest interest in having its laws control the consequences of that injury. At the time of HNN's broadcast of the Report, plaintiff was domiciled and employed ...


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