Make us your home page

Appeals court affirms decision to throw out $10M libel verdict against Times Publishing Co.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal has affirmed a lower court's decision to throw out a $10 million libel verdict concerning articles that appeared in the St. Petersburg Times.

The lawsuit focused on three articles written by the late Times reporter Paul de la Garza about Dr. Harold L. Kennedy, former chief of medicine at Bay Pines VA Medical Center.

Times attorney Alison Steele welcomed the ruling, saying, "The Times has never wavered in its belief in Mr. de la Garza or the stories."

The plaintiff's attorney, Timothy Weber, said, "Obviously, Dr. Kennedy is disappointed and we'll take a look at the decision and what our options are."

Weber said no decision has yet been made on whether to appeal. He said the case could not be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, but that an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is possible.

He said he was disappointed that the appellate court simply affirmed the lower court's ruling without comment, and that the lower court did not provide extensive explanation for why the jury's verdict was overturned.

The articles mentioned in the lawsuit were published in 2003 about Kennedy and his reassignment from chief of medicine to his subspecialty of cardiology at Bay Pines.

Kennedy filed suit in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court in 2005. He and his attorney argued that portions of the articles were false, and that the Times knew or should have known they were false.

But the Times argued at the trial, and in a motion later to the judge, that the articles were accurate.

After the five-day trial in 2009, a jury sided with Kennedy, saying he should be awarded $5.1 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.

But in 2010, Circuit Judge Anthony Rondolino overturned the ruling, saying evidence in the case was "insufficient to cross the threshold required by the First Amendment."

De la Garza, who wrote the articles, died in 2006, before the trial.

Appeals court affirms decision to throw out $10M libel verdict against Times Publishing Co. 10/20/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 20, 2011 7:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa is 15th-most popular city to move to with U-Haul


    TAMPA —Tampa is undoubtedly a destination point, at least according to U-Haul.

    Tampa is the No. 15 destination for people moving with U-Haul trucks. | Times file photo
  2. Florida's economy growing faster than other big states and far better than U.S. overall


    When it comes to economic growth, Florida's running alongside the leading states and well ahead of the United States as a whole.

  3. Westshore Marina District project takes shape with another acquisition

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — One of Tampa Bay's prime waterfront areas took another major step toward redevelopment Friday as WCI Communities bought 2.35 acres in Westshore Marina District.

    WCI Communities, Lennar's high-end subsidiary,has paid $2.5 million for 2.35 acres in the Westshore Marina District for 35 townhomes. WCI is under contract  to buy an additional 9.5 acres.
[BTI Partners]
  4. Posh Guy Harvey RV park to open in Tampa Bay with $250,000 cottages


    HOLIDAY — Love those Guy Harvey T-shirts with the soaring marlins? In the not too distant future, you might be able to kick back in your own Guy Harvey cottage in the first-ever Guy Harvey RV park.

    Renderings of the clubhouse and an RV cottage site of the planned Guy Harvey Outpost Club & Resort Tarpon Springs.
[Guy Harvey Outpost Collection]
  5. Port Tampa Bay secures $9 million grant to deepen Big Bend Channel


    Port Tampa Bay has secured a $9 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the widening and deepening of the Big Bend Channel in southern Hillsborough County.