December 17, 2012 8:59am PT by Eriq Gardner
Magazine Publisher Responds to Tom Cruise's $50M Defamation Lawsuit
The publisher of Life & Style and In Touch magazines has 34 reasons why Tom Cruise won't be taking home $50 million in a lawsuit over a story that suggested Cruise had abandoned his daughter Suri.
Cruise sued Bauer Publishing Company in October, alleging defamation in July issues with tabloid banner headlines like "Suri In Tears, Abandoned by her Dad." The actor complained that it was widely reported elsewhere that he had spent substantial time with his daughter between work projects, that the magazine publisher was on notice from his attorneys, and yet had chosen to make allegedly "false," "shameful" and "reprehensible" allegations of the abandonment of his daughter.
On Friday, Bauer responded for the first time in a California federal court.
The publisher denies any defamation and says it has 34 affirmative defenses to Cruise's claims.
Some of the defenses are garden variety ones including that Cruise's claims are barred by the doctrine of unclean hands, laches, waiver and estoppel (defense #2). It's also no surprise that in a defamation case, Bauer would also respond by pointing to the First Amendment (#3, 11) and saying that it did not act with "actual malice," (#12) a necessary element of intent that Cruise would need to demonstrate on the part of the publisher since the actor is likely to be deemed a public figure.
Bauer also points to the statements in question, saying what was published was "true or substantially true" (#4), are not "verifiably false facts, and/or constitute rhetorical hyperbole or subjective statements of opinion" (#5), can't be reasonably understood to have "defamatory meaning" (#8), are "protected by the doctrine of fair comment" (#13), are "barred by the doctrine of neutral reportage (#14), are a "matter of public concern" (#23) and are "not offensive to a reasonable person (#32).
If there's anything inflammatory in Bauer's response to Cruise's $50 million lawsuit, it probably comes from the characterization of how the stories in question allegedly damaged the actor.
The publisher says that Cruise can't prove he suffered any "compensable damage" (#6), that the actor failed to "mitigate" damages (#17) and that Cruise is responsible for some fault for what happened (#18).
According to Bauer's answer, "Plaintiff's claims for relief against the Bauer Defendants are barred, in whole or in part, because any damages allegedly suffered by plaintiff were the result, in whole or in part, of plaintiff's own legal fault, and any recovery by plaintiff should be reduced in proportion to plaintiff's fault."
That could be a set-up for the defendants to conduct an intrusive discovery into Cruise's private life.
In October, Cruise's attorney Bert Fields labeled Bauer foreign-owned "serial defamers."
Here's the full answer with all 34 defenses filed by Alonzo Wickers at Davis Wright Tremaine.
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