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U.S. Supreme Court won't review dismissal of $10.1 million libel verdict against Times Publishing Co.

Published Mar. 27, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to review a libel case against the Times Publishing Co., effectively ending the case in the company's favor.

The appeal was filed by attorneys for Dr. Harold L. Kennedy. He sued the publisher of the Tampa Bay Times over three articles written in 2003 about his reassignment from chief of medicine at Bay Pines VA Medical Center to his subspecialty of cardiology.

The articles were written by Times staff writer Paul de la Garza, who died of a heart attack in 2006 at age 44.

"Paul de la Garza was an extraordinary reporter," said Times attorney Alison Steele. "The Times and I have been honored to defend him."

Kennedy filed suit in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court in 2005, arguing that portions of the articles were false and that the newspaper knew or should have known they were false.

But the Times argued at trial, and throughout the appeals process, that the articles were accurate.

In 2009, a jury sided with Kennedy and awarded him $10.1 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The Times appealed and has prevailed at every level since then.

In 2010, the trial judge, Circuit Judge Anthony Rondolino, threw out the jury's verdict and $10.1 million judgment because the plaintiff's evidence was "insufficient to cross the threshold required by the First Amendment."

Last year, the 2nd District Court of Appeal upheld Rondolino's ruling without comment. Then, in January, the doctor's attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, which the justices declined to do.

"It was unfortunate that they didn't accept the case," said Timothy Weber, the attorney for Kennedy.


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