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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Court dismisses Navy Seal's defamation case against Washington Examiner over use of photo

State Court

By Charmaine Little | Oct 14, 2019

Defamation

WILMINGTON, Del. (Legal Newsline) – A Delaware court has dismissed a Navy Seal's defamation case against a newspaper.

The Superior Court of the State of Delaware tossed out Joseph Schmidt's case against the Washington Newspaper Publishing Co., doing business as The Washington Examiner, on Sept. 30.

Schmidt originally sued the newspaper in Florida court in April 2018 over allegations of defamation, defamation by implication and intentional infliction of emotional distress after it used his photo for an article about a Navy Seal who was charged with making child pornography. While Schmidt is a Navy Seal, he wasn’t the Navy Seal who was the subject of the article. 

Schimidt filed the complaint with the Delaware court in March and the defendant filed the motion to dismiss in April.

Judge Calvin L. Scott Jr. stated forum non conveniens as the key reason for dismissing the case. He wrote that forum non conveniens "is a judicially created doctrine that allows the court to exert some control over a non-resident plaintiff's access to our forum." He noted that Schmidt sued in Florida, and those proceedings wrapped on Dec. 6, 2018, before he filed the current complaint on March 25. He also noted that Cyro-Maid factors pushed dismissal. 

The Cyro-Maid factors include the “possibility of viewing the premises,” “the pendency or non-dependency of a similar action in another jurisdiction,” and “relative ease of access to proof,” the ruling states.

In its motion, the Washington Examiner also said that California law is related to the lawsuit, and Delaware’s Borrowing Statute calls for an application of California’s one-year statute of limitations, which would make Schmidt’s claims untimely. 

Considering Schmidt lived in California when the article was published, the defendant argued California law is relevant unless there’s another state that has a deeper connection to the incident and the parties involved. In this case, the only other possibility is Delaware, where Schmidt said the law should apply since the Washington Examiner is incorporated in that state, and its parent company is in Delaware. 

Schmidt argued that Delaware “has an interest in deterring tortious conduct and compensating victims,” said ruling. But the Washington Examiner argued that only California law is relevant considering that’s where Schmidt’s injury occurred. 

“The only connection between plaintiff’s claims and Delaware is the fact that defendant is incorporated here," Scott wrote. "Additionally, Delaware was not plaintiff’s first choice of forum. Therefore, the court finds that California law applies to plaintiff’s claims.”

Scott was obliged to decide if the court would use Delaware’s two-year statute of limitations or California’s one-year statute of limitations. If the court went with Delaware, Schmidt would have had three years to file his claim considering he’d be offered an extra year as he lost on procedural grounds in Florida. 

Scott said that Schmidt’s claims aren’t untimely because of to the California’s Savings Statute, which the judge decided to apply in this case. Under that statute, Schmidt also had an extra year to file the lawsuit, so it would be considered timely.

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