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Date: 12-30-1998

Case Style: Sylvester Turner v. Wayne Dolcefino and KTRK Television, Inc.

Case Number: 14-97-240

Judge: Elizabeth Ray

Court: 165th District Court, Harris County, Texas

Plaintiff's Attorney: Ronald G. Franklin, Ralph S. Carrigan and Robert E. Lapin, Houston, Texas

Defendant's Attorney: Charles L. Babcock and David Timothy Moran, Houston, Texas

Description: Libel suit. Suit arose out of two television news broadcasts aired on KTRK's Channel 13 in December, 1991, a few days before the run-off election for mayor of Houston between Turner and Bob Lanier. The broadcasts questioned the role Turner may have played in, and what he knew about, an attempted multimillion dollar insurance scam, which involved the faked death of a Turner client.

Outcome: After a six-week trial, the jury found the broadcasts were defamatory, false, published with actual malice, authorized by KTRK, and published with actual awareness of probable harm to Turner’s reputation. Jury set actual damages at $550,000 It set exemplary damages at $4,500,000 against KTRK and $500,000 against Dolcefino, the reporter of the story. The trial court limited the exemplary damages against KTRK to $2,200,000, four times the actual damages, as required by the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code.

Plaintiff's Experts: Unknown

Defendant's Experts: Unknown

Comments: KTRK and Dolcefino appealed. The Court of Appeals, Houston, 14th District found no clear and convincing evidence to support the jury finding of actual malice, and reversed the judgment of the trial court and rendered judgment that Turner take nothing. See:987 S.W.2nd 100 (Tex.App.—Houston (14th Dist.) 1998). The date shown above is the date of the appellate court decision and not the trial date. Reported by JAB.

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