A federal court in Florida has dismissed with prejudice two lawsuits professional golfer Patrick Reed brought against media companies, alleging defamation and tortious interference. Thomas & LoCicero represented defendants Gannett Co., Inc. and Gannett Satellite Information Network, LLC in the first case (Reed v. Chamblee, No. 3:22-cv-1059-TJC-PDB) and defendants The Associated Press, Hachette Book Group, Inc., Shane Ryan, and Doug Ferguson in the second case (Reed v. Ryan, No. 3:22-cv-1181-TJC-PDB).
The court’s combined dismissal order addressed more than 50 different statements that Reed challenged in the two cases. The statements included reports on golf events that Reed participated in, commentary on his affiliation with the PGA Tour’s then-competitor LIV Golf, and criticism of LIV generally, including its financial support from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.
Agreeing with arguments made by Thomas & LoCicero attorneys, Carol Jean LoCicero and Linda R. Norbut, the court ruled some of the statements were not “of and concerning” Reed, but rather LIV or LIV players, and that Reed had failed to plead any specific circumstances that would “reasonably give rise to the conclusion that there is a particular reference” to him. Most of the remaining statements were held to be non-actionable because they were protected pure opinion or rhetorical hyperbole (or both), or otherwise constitute statements of facts. The commentary was largely intended to convey opinions based on disclosed facts, the court explained, and Reed failed to allege that the facts in the articles were false. The court also held that Reed, as a public figure, failed to sufficiently allege facts showing “actual malice” by the defendants, and that this “deficiency is fatal to each defamation claim.”
The court also held the accompanying tortious interference claims were barred under Florida’s single action rule, which does not permit multiple actions to be maintained when they arise from the same publication upon which a defamation claim is based.
With offices in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, Thomas & LoCicero is a Florida law firm that is widely known, respected and committed to free speech and a free press. The firm represents leading electronic and traditional publishers. Thomas & LoCicero also counsels clients in a variety of industries in intellectual property, marketing and advertising matters and litigates business, defamation, trademark, copyright and privacy cases.