KSTP Slapped With $1M Defamation Verdict
A holistic healer who sued KSTP-TV for defamation has reportedly been awarded $1 million in compensatory damages, representing what's believed to be the largest verdict ever in a Minnesota defamation suit.
A Dakota County jury made the award Friday after a weeklong trial, according to the Star Tribune. Jurors opted not to issue a punitive award.
Attorney Paul Hannah, who represented KSTP, told the Minneapolis newspaper that he expects KSTP to appeal the verdict and file motions to get it reduced or overturned. Hannah was unsure whether KSTP would issue a statement regarding the verdict.
The suit stems from a 2009 story that KSTP-Channel 5 in the Twin Cities-aired about the treatment that Hudson, Wisconsin naturopathy doctor Susan Anderson provided to former patient Cheryl Blaha.
According to the Star Tribune, KSTP reported that Anderson, who was known at the time as Susan Wahl, had “de-prescribed” anti-anxiety medication to Blaha. Blaha then told KSTP in interviews that she had tried to commit suicide as a result of Anderson having weaned her of the medicine.
The suit filed by Anderson claimed that medical records indicated that Blaha's own medical doctor had reduced her medication and that there was no proof of the alleged suicide attempt, Anderson's lawyer, Patrick Tierney, told the Star Tribune. He said that a week after the alleged suicide attempt, Blaha met with her doctor and didn't mention it.
“KSTP bought [Blaha's story] hook, line, and sinker, and that's what this case was about,” Tierney said, later adding that KSTP “created a report instead of reporting on something.”
Anderson claimed in a memorandum in support of the suit that KSTP “knew that the story . . . was false” based on many pages of medical records dating back to 2007.
Citing Tierney, the Star Tribune reported that the jury awarded Anderson about $100,000 for lost earnings, past and future, and $900,000 for damage to her reputation that was caused by KSTP's story.
Cheryl and Eric Blaha were reportedly named as defendants in Anderson's suit, but the jury found that they weren't liable for monetary damages.