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Libel Personal Injury is Largest Trial Verdict in NC in 2016

A different type of personal injury took the highest verdict at trial in North Carolina in 2016. A Wake County, NC jury returned the state's largest verdict in 2016, awarding $9 million to a forensic scientist with the North Carolina SBI crime lab for libel against The Raleigh News and Observer.

In 2010, the newspaper ran a series of articles criticizing the SBI labs, implying that they were error-prone and even intentionally misrepresenting results. SBI agent Beth Desmond, a firearms expert, was accused in the articles of falsifying evidence to help prosecutors win a conviction in a 2005 murder case. As a result of the accusations, the reporters won journalism awards and cash prizes. Meanwhile, Ms. Desmond suffered injuries including severe depression. She ended up leaving her position at the SBI. There reporters, it was later shown, had misquoted sources to arrive at their "hard hitting" news piece.

When the misconduct of the reporters came to light, the paper refused to retract the story and offered Ms. Desmond only $30,000.

A Wake County, NC jury, after over three weeks in trial, awarded both compensatory and punitive damages in an effort to deter the paper from similar conduct in the future. The verdict was large as the amount of personal injury suffered by Ms. Desmond was large, as well as the defendant's bad conduct. The paper, meanwhile, has remained defiant and appealed the case to the N.C. Court of Appeals.

For more information about defamation personal injury cases, visit: Defamation-Libel-Slander.shtml

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