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Eighth Circuit Clears MLB All-Star Player and Family Foundation in $7.5M Defamation Claim

May 8, 2018

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri’s dismissal with prejudice of claims for libel and slander asserted against an MLB All-Star player, his spouse, and his charitable foundation.

Goldberg Segalla partner Paul L. Knobbe of St. Louis successfully moved to dismiss the case shortly after it was filed in the District Court in 2017. In the complaint, the plaintiff — who is defendant’s cousin — asserted a $7.5 million claim for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The plaintiff brought two separate claims of defamation arising out of communications between the defendant and his family and the mother of a teenage boy who was killed when a car in which the plaintiff was a passenger, and driven by plaintiff’s brother who was running from the police, struck the teen on his bike. The plaintiff alleged that communications from the defendant’s wife characterized the plaintiff as a “murderer.” The plaintiff also claimed that the defendant and his wife told unnamed MLB officials that plaintiff is a convicted felon in an attempt to ruin his baseball career. In addition, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant continued to harass and threaten his family to drop the lawsuit, which was the basis for the emotional infliction claim. Paul argued that the statements in question were not defamatory, and were protected opinion, and additionally that the plaintiff failed to plead any attendant damages as is required by law. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri dismissed the complaint in its entirety with prejudice.

Partner Stewart G. Milch, co-chair of the firm’s nationwide Appellate practice, handled the appeal. The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the trial court’s dismissal with prejudice in full, protecting both the baseball player’s reputation and his foundation’s ability to continue its charitable work.