Deborah Drooz Notable Cases:
Berry Gordy v. Daily News, L.P.: Motown founder Berry Gordy brought suit against the New York Daily News following its publication of an unrepeatable falsehood. The Daily News defended on personal jurisdiction grounds, contending that its contacts with California were minuscule. The trial court ruled in the publication’s favor, and Drooz was called in to handle the appeal. Following extensive briefing and oral argument, the 9th Circuit reversed, finding that “[a]n individual injured in California need not go to [New York] to seek redress from persons who, though remaining in [New York], knowingly cause the injury in California.” The decision was precedential and has been cited nearly 200 times in other cases.
AEG v. KNBC, et al.: Following KNBC’s broadcast of a news segment on Staples Center that featured stock footage of smoke and flames and an explosion, and described the arena as “unsafe,” Drooz and her team represented the arena’s owner, Anschutz Entertainment Group, in a defamation suit against the station. Drooz defeated the station’s anti-SLAPP motion at the trial court level and on appeal and paved the way for a favorable settlement.
Hawaii Teamsters adv. Steam Press Holdings: During a heated wage dispute between a local Teamsters chapter and a dry-cleaning company, the company’s owner sued the union’s president for defamation, alleging that the president accused him of lying. The owner prevailed at trial and won a sizable judgment. Drooz entered the case as the Teamsters’ appellate counsel and succeeded in reversing the judgment. Drooz persuaded the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that the union’s statements were protected expressions of opinion that could not give rise to defamation liability.
Aretha Franklin v. Star Editorial: American Media Inc.’s tabloid The Star published an article that falsely accused Grammy Award winner Aretha Franklin of “drinking herself into the grave,” and of asking friend Gladys Knight to fill in for her when she was too inebriated to perform. It then published a purported retraction that simply repeated the falsehoods. Ms. Franklin hired Drooz and her team to vindicate her reputation. After months of discovery and motion practice, the case settled favorably at the courthouse immediately before the Star’s motion for summary judgment was to be heard.
Martha Stewart v. The National Enquirer: The tabloid National Enquirer published an article stating that Ms. Stewart suffered from “borderline personality disorder” and was “mentally ill.” Stewart retained Drooz and her team to bring a libel suit. The Enquirer defended on the ground that it was simply repeating the conclusions of a Florida physician who had purportedly diagnosed the disorder. When the physician was deposed, he admitted that he never met or spoke to Ms. Stewart. The case settled after the tabloid’s motion for summary judgment was denied.
Steve Wynn v. Joe Francis: Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis falsely stated to the media that Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn threatened to kill him and bury him in the desert. With Drooz as appellate counsel for Wynn in a defamation case, the court upheld a $19 million judgment against Francis, finding no basis to overturn the judgment or order a new trial. The appellate court also left in place an injunction barring Francis from repeating the claims. Drooz had been instrumental in the pre-trial briefing that led to the multi-million dollar verdict in Wynn’s favor.
Rodney Dangerfield v. Star Editorial: Comedian Rodney Dangerfield retained Drooz and her team to sue for libel after The Star published an article in which four unnamed Caesar’s Palace employees purportedly described Dangerfield as habitually inebriated and using cocaine. During discovery, the publication refused to name the employees, claiming protection under California’s shield law. When the trial court ordered disclosure, The Star filed a writ petition with the California Court of Appeals, and Drooz handled the response on Dangerfield’s behalf. She persuaded the court that, because her client was a public figure and was required to show The Star’s falsehoods were published with “actual malice,” the confidential sources’ identities were “essential” to the case. As a result, the publication was compelled to disclose its sources. When deposed, each denied that he had spoken about Dangerfield to The Star or its reporters. Dangerfield prevailed at trial.