Libel law requires more than just a showing of false factual allegations about the plaintiff (plus, generally, knowledge/reckless/sometimes negligence as to the falsehood). The allegations must also be likely to damage the reputation of the plaintiff, as Judge Paul Crotty’s decision (S.D.N.Y.), Friday noted. In Lindell v. Mail Media Inc.It was not a story with that tendency.
Even if the romance didn’t happen, [allegation]Lindell would not be defamed. Dating an actress—secret or not—would not cause “public hatred,” “shame,” “ridicule,” or any similar feeling towards Lindell. Both Lindell and Krakowski are unmarried adults, and Lindell’s alleged actions typify those of a person in a consenting relationship….
Lindell claims that the Article incorrectly associates Lindell with alcohol, because it says he purchased Krakowski champagne as well as other liquor bottles. This association can only be described as indirect. Lindell has never been known to consume alcohol. It explicitly stated that Lindell was sober.
Lindell asserts that the Article continues to defame him, claiming that he wouldn’t buy or “foist” alcohol on others after overcoming his addiction. Lindell may have a history of addiction but buying alcohol to drink with a partner is not likely to expose him “public hate,” “shame,” and “ridicule.” The purchase of alcohol is a legal and ordinary act…. [N]o reasonable reader could find it offensive to exchange champagne or other bottles of liquor as gifts between romantic partners….
Lindell asks for the Court’s consideration of the Article in light of his faith and redemptive history. Lindell asserts that “in the context” of Lindell’s profession as the founder of Lindell Recovery Network “allegations that Lindell is hypocritical about Christian morality or alcohol consumption may plausibly be attributed to defamatory intent.” …
[E]In judging Lindell’s claim in the most favorable light, the Court can not find language in Lindell’s Article suggesting that he is a hypocrite. This includes his relationship with his girlfriend and his abstinence of alcohol. Importantly, the Article does not discuss the Lindell Recovery Network—or more generally, Lindell’s work with people struggling with substance abuse—a single time….. Apart from the fact that Lindell has an ex-wife, and his thoughts on relationships, Lindell’s past dating life is not discussed in the Article. The Article does not give any information about Lindell’s moral beliefs to compare with his relationship Krakowski. Also, Lindell’s acts would not be a threat to his mission of charity or religion. This is why the Article doesn’t give the reader any indication.
If they’re offensive enough, nondefamatory falsities can still be brought into court as “false Light” invasion of privacy. New York, however, is not the appropriate state to consider a false light theory.