Court Tosses Libel Suit Over India News Reports

     (CN) – An Indian television network cannot be sued for reporting rumors that a man pushed his pregnant wife out of a moving car stemming from a fight over dowry, the North Carolina business court ruled.
     Christy Danius and his sister, Leema Pillai, sought $12 million in damages from Sun TV Network, CNN-IBN, New Delhi Television and Star India Private.
     They claimed the media companies committed slander in their coverage of a South Carolina car accident involving his then-pregnant wife, Smalin Jenita.
     Danius said he, his parents and his new wife, Jenita, moved to the United States from India in 2006. One year later, Jenita suffered severe brain injuries and fell into a coma after a car accident.
     According to the original 2009 complaint, Danius rolled his car after getting cut off on the highway. But Jenita’s family told Indian press a different story, accusing Janius and his family of pushing their 23-year-old daughter from the car over a dowry dispute.
     Danius and his sister claimed that the story became sensationalized in India, and that Pillai lost her job in the aftermath. They also alleged that the defendants continue to publish false allegations even today.
     Sun TV is based in India and broadcasts its programming in the United States on Dish Network and other satellite TV services.
     Sun TV did not appear in court and was unable to find an attorney in North Carolina, according to the North Carolina Business Court.
     About a month after Danius and Pillai obtained a $12 million default judgment against Sun TV in late 2010, the company found a North Carolina attorney and filed a motion to set aside the decision.
     The business court agreed on Aug. 12 and dismissed the case with prejudice for lack of jurisdiction.
     “From a time zone marked by a 10.5-hour differential from EST, and in the exercise of due diligence, Sun TV was unable to obtain North Carolina counsel in a timely manner after receiving the complaint,” Judge Calvin Murphy wrote for the court.
     “Plaintiffs would not suffer any harm by virtue of any delay occasioned by granting Sun TV the relief it seeks, and Sun TV stands to suffer a grave injustice by virtue of its inability to defend this action.”
     Danius and Pillai filed a similar lawsuit against two different Indian media companies in 2011. In 2008, the siblings sued the hospital and two employees for allegedly disclosing their medical records following the accident.

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