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Daily News Cleared on Gang’s Target of Woman

(CN) - A woman cannot hold the New York Daily News liable for an allegedly erroneous report that led to her harassment by a street gang, an appeals court ruled.

The December 2007 article in question reported on suspicions by police that a Brooklyn man beat his 3-year-old daughter to death.

It quoted Sylvia Phillips, the family's neighbor, as saying that she saw the girl in a stroller with her stepmother on the day before her death, "hidden beneath a pile of blankets."

"It was different, the way it was wrapped," Phillips said, according to the article. "She turned the stroller like she didn't want me to see the child. It disturbed me."

In her ensuing lawsuit against the paper, Phillips denied making these comments. She claimed that they caused her to be threatened and harassed by a gang, of which the child's father and uncle were allegedly members.

Phillips claimed that she feared for her safety and had to move several times.

A judge in Manhattan refused to dismiss the action, but the Appellate Division's First Department reversed on Nov. 7.

"The complaint fails to state a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress since it fails to allege conduct that is extreme and outrageous," the unsigned opinion states.

"Plaintiff fails to allege that defendants' conduct was so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community," the appellate panel added.

The appellate justices also ruled that Phillips did not make a case for prima facie tort because she did not prove that the Daily News published the comments with "disinterested malevolence."

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