A man misidentified by MSNBC as a car thief lost his libel lawsuit in Michigan’s Supreme Court. MSNBC had mixed up two men with similar names in its report on the theft of a limousine.
MSNBC did retract and correct the error, stating in a repeat broadcast, “The man previously named and shown had no relation to the crime. We regret the error.”
The Michigan man, Keith Todd, sued over the error in the 2011 program, “Caught on Camera: Dash Cam Diaries,” as iMediaEthics reported at the time. It was Todd Keith, not Keith Todd, who stole the limo.
Todd didn’t see the program when it aired. However, after seeing a video of the program, he sued for defamation, emotional distress and negligence. This month, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled to uphold “previous dismissals of Todd’s claim by a Wayne County judge and an appeals court in 2015,” according to Michigan Live.
The case was first dismissed because it was filed after the statute of limitations of one year for a libel case, reported the Oakland Press, a Digital First Media-owned Michigan newspaper. Later, the state appeals court “said the threshold for showing intentional infliction of distress is very high,” according to the Oakland Press.
Now, his case is over.
Todd was also suing the limousine company, A One Limousine, and the local Eastpointe Police Department. The police department made the initial error by supplying the wrong man’s name. City of Eastpointe Director of Public Safety John McNeilance told iMediaEthics by e-mail, “My understanding is the case against the City of Eastpointe was dismissed.”
Video of the March 24 hearing in the State Supreme Court is on YouTube.
iMediaEthics watched the hearing.
Issues brought up included the source of the identification mix-up and whether there was intentional infliction of emotional distress.
One of the judges on the panel of seven, Justice Robert P. Young Jr., asked Todd’s lawyer to clarify who was the source of the error.
When Todd’s lawyers first filed the lawsuit, the lawsuit alleged the police provided the wrong information to MSNBC. However, Todd’s lawyer in court at the Supreme Court hearing, Jeff Steinport, said there was a possibility the error wasn’t solely on the police’s part in providing a bad identification. Steinport further argued MSNBC failed to do “due diligence” to check what the police provided.
On the other hand, MSNBC’s lawyer, Leonard Niehoff, argued MSNBC didn’t do anything wrong, “certainly not by the standards of intentional infliction of emotional distress.” However, he conceded, “of course [MSNBC] made a mistake.”
Addressing whether MSNBC intentionally or recklessly erred, Niehoff explained MSNBC did in fact get its information from the police department. “The critical fact here is, as pled, we got this information from the police department.”
He went on, “It was the police department’s mistake. It cannot be intentional, it cannot be reckless, it cannot be extreme, it cannot be outrageous to rely on what a police department tells you.”
iMediaEthics has contacted Todd’s lawyer Steinport via phone and e-mail to confirm this is the end of Keith’s lawsuits over the error. We’ve also contacted MSNBC to ask if the episode in question continues to air.