United States District Court, S.D. New York
Counsel for Giuffre BOIES, SCHILLER & FLEXNER LLP By:
Sigrid S. McCawley, Esq. Meredith L. Schultz, Esq.
Counsel for Maxwell HADDON, MORGAN AND FOREMAN, P.C. By:
Laura A. Menninger, Esq. Jeffrey S. Pagliuca, Esq.
W. SWEET, U.S.D.J.
defendant Ghislaine Maxwell ("Maxwell" or the
"Maxwell") has moved pursuant to Rule 56, Fed. R.
Civ. P., for summary judgment dismissing the complaint of
plaintiff Virginia L. Giuffre ("Giuffre" or the
"Giuffre") alleging defamation. Upon the facts and
conclusions set forth below, the motion is denied.
contested facts derived from discovery subject to the
Protective Order of March 17, 2016 have been redacted.
the filing of the complaint on September 21, 2015, setting
forth Giuffre's claim of defamation by Maxwell, this
action has been vigorously litigated, as demonstrated by the
704 docket entries as of March 8, 2017. At issue is the truth
or falsity of a January 2015 statement issued by Maxwell.
Discovery has proceeded, a joint pretrial order has been
filed, and the action is set for trial on May 15, 2017. The
instant motion was heard and marked fully submitted on
February 16, 2017.
facts have been set forth in Maxwell's Memorandum of Law
in Support of Maxwell's Motion for Summary Judgment,
Southern District of New York, Local Rule 56.1; Giuffre's
Statement of Contested Facts and Giuffre's Undisputed
Facts; and Maxwell's Reply to Giuffre's Statement of
Contested Facts and Giuffre's Undisputed Facts pursuant
to Local Civil Rule 56.1. They are not in dispute except as
The Applicable Standard
judgment is appropriate only where "there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c). "[T]he substantive law will identify which facts
are material." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
dispute is "genuine" if "the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party." Id. The relevant inquiry on
application for summary judgment is "whether the
evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require
submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one
party must prevail as a matter of law." Id. at
251-52. A court is not charged with weighing the evidence and
determining its truth, but with determining whether there is
a genuine issue for trial. Westinghouse Elec. Corp. v.
N.Y. City Transit Auth., 735 F.Supp. 1205, 1212
(S.D.N.Y. 1990) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249).
"[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material
fact." Anderson, 477U.S. at 247-48 (emphasis in
the moving party bears the initial burden of showing that no
genuine issue of material fact exists, Atl. Mut. Ins. Co.
v. CSX Lines, L.L.C., 432 F.3d 428, 433 (2d Cir. 2005),
in cases where the non-moving party bears the burden of
persuasion at trial, "the burden on the moving party may
be discharged by * showing'-that is, pointing out to the
district court-that there is an absence of evidence to
support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). "It
is ordinarily sufficient for the movant to point to a lack of
evidence . . . on an essential element of the
non-movant's claim .... [T]he nonmoving party must [then]
come forward with admissible evidence sufficient to raise a
genuine issue of fact for trial . . . ." Jaramillo
v. Weyerhaeuser Co., 536 F.3d 140, 145 (2d Cir. 2008}
(internal citations omitted); see also Goenaga v. March
of Dimes Birth Defects Found., 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir.
1995} ("Once the moving party has made a properly
supported showing sufficient to suggest the absence of any
genuine issue as to a material fact, the nonmoving party ...
must come forward with evidence that would be sufficient to
support a jury verdict in his favor"}.
The Motion for Summary Judgment on Republication Grounds is
has moved for summary judgment dismissing Giuffre's
complaint on the grounds that Maxwell is not liable for the
republication of her Press Release by the media. Because as a
matter of law the issuer of a press release is responsible
for its publication, the motion is denied.
York, liability for a republication "must be based on
real authority to influence the final product."
Davis v. Costa-Gavras, 580 F.Supp. 1082,
1096 (S.D.N.Y. 1984); see also Hoffman v.
Landers, 146 A.D.2d 744, 747 (N.Y. A.D.2d Dep't
1989) ("One who makes a defamatory statement is not
responsible for its recommunication without his authority or
request by another over whom he has no control."). Where
a defendant "had no actual part in composing or
publishing, " he cannot be held liable "without
disregarding the settled rule of law that no man is bound for
the tortious act of another over whom he has not a
master's power of control." Davis, 580
F.Supp. at 1096 (internal quotation marks and citation
York Court of Appeals summarized New York's republication
liability standard in Geraci v. Probst, 938 N.E.2d
917 (N.Y. 2010), stating that
one who . . . prints and publishes a libel is not
responsible for its voluntary and unjustifiable repetition,
without his authority or request, by others over whom he has
no control and who thereby make themselves liable to the
person injured, and that such repetition cannot be considered
in law a necessary, natural and probable consequence of the
original slander or libel.
938 N.E.2d at 921 (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). Thus, "conclusive evidence of lack of actual
authority [is] sufficiently dispositive that the [court]
'ha[s] no option but to dismiss the case . . .
.'" Davis, 580 F.Supp. At 1096 (quoting
Rinaldi v. Viking Penguin, Inc., 420 N.E.2d 377, 382
(N.Y. 1981)) .
New York law assigns liability to individuals for the
media's publication of press releases. New York appellate
courts have held that an individual is liable for the media
publishing that individual's defamatory press release.
See Levy v. Smith,132 A.D.3d 961, 962-63 (N.Y.
A.D.2d Dep't 2015) ("Generally, [o]ne who makes a
defamatory statement is not responsible for its
recommunication without his authority or request by another
over whom he has no control .... Here, however, . . . the
appellant intended and authorized the republication of the
allegedly defamatory content of the press releases in the
news articles."); see also Restatement (Second)
Of Torts § 576 (1977) ("The publication of a libel
or slander is a legal cause of any ...