(CN) – Three strippers and their employer were not defamed by a county commissioner’s statement in a Memphis newspaper that most strippers “were sexually abused by a family member … and have an addiction to drugs and alcohol,” the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled.
Shelby County Commissioner Michael Ritz was quoted in the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper as saying: “Almost without exception, these girls were sexually abused by a family member … and have an addiction to drugs and alcohol. … These clubs feed on that. It’s a vicious cycle.”
Amanda Steele, along with her employer and two colleagues, sued Ritz for defamation.
The trial court ruled for Ritz due to the “group libel rule,” which states that the plaintiffs must be named specifically in order to collect damages. The appeals court agreed.
“Whether by inadvertence or choice, the plaintiffs have not alleged an indispensable element of defamation – that Commissioner Ritz defamed them in the quoted statement. The plaintiff’s complaint, read as a whole, is therefore insufficient to state a cause of action for defamation,” Judge David Farmer wrote.