We reported last month that on 14 February 2011, controversial Federal Judge Judge Manuel Real dismissed the libel action brought by David Beckham against Bauer Publishhing Company Limited as the publishers of “In Touch” magazine. The order made by the judge is here. The claim arose out of the publication of an article entitled “David’s Dangerous Betrayal” which consisted of an interview with Irma Nici, described as a former high-class call girl, claiming that she had slept with David Beckham, who had agreed to pay her US$10,000 for “one night of passion”.
The proceedings for libel, slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress had been issued on 24 September 2010. At the time of the dismissal of the action the judge’s reasons were not available. The Judge’s Opinion was released on 17 March 2011. We thank Mr Benjamin Pell for supplying us with a copy.
Judge Manuel Real is noted for the brevity of his opinions and this one is an impressive three pages. First the Judge held that the statements in the article
“concern a person in the public eye and it concerns a topic of widespread, public interest. Plaintiff is a world renowned soccer star who is no stranger to the media and he puts himself in the public spotlight. Allegations of his alleged affairs would be topic of interest to a wide variety of people”.
Second, he held that because David Beckham is a public figure he had to “plead and prove by convincing evidence that the Defendants acted with actual malice“. The judge held that this standard had not been met. The Defendant said that it had
“interviewed the woman who claims to have had the encounter with Plaintiff; met with first-hand witnesses who confirmed that they set up the encounter and participated in the encounter; verified dates, locations, and events which placed Plaintiff at certain locations when the encounters allegedly occurred; researched similar stories of Plaintiff’s alleged affairs in the past, and gave Plaintiff the opportunity to respond to such statements“.
The Judge said that there was nothing that would have “tipped off” the Defendants that the information was false or made them question their research.
He concluded as follows
It is not enough for Plaintiff to show that Defendants’ statements were inaccurate or unreasonable. Rather, Plaintiff was required to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence Defendants’ willful falsity or reckless disregard for the truth. As such, the Motion is granted in its entirety.
On the same date David Beckham lodged an appeal against the strike out order. The very brief Notice of Appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals simply states the fact that “Plaintiff and Cross Defendant David Beckham … hereby appeals“.
According to the “Daily Mail“, on the appeal David Beckham will say that the Defendants are in possession of documents which show that they knew the story to be false and that the court should order disclosure. He will also contend that the Defendants acted with malice by relying on the word of two ‘admitted criminals’ Miss Nici and a witness, notorious former madam Kirstin Davis. It is also said that David Beckham will contend that Bauer did not obtain any ‘documentary evidence’ of Miss Nici’s allegations and relied ‘on paid informants who happen to be admitted criminals.’
A spokesman for David Beckham was quoted as saying “”David is appealing… and is confident justice will prevail.”