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Defamation Case Over Press Release Proceeds

(CN) - A jet company that issued a press release announcing its fraud lawsuit against a competitor isn't protected by a New York law allowing "fair and accurate" coverage of judicial proceedings, a state appellate division ruled.

Jet One Group filed suit in New York Federal Court, alleging fraud and racketeering claims against Halcyon Jets. Jet One then announced its allegations in a press release.

Halcyon fired back with a defamation lawsuit, claiming the press release was false and injured Halcyon's business.

Jet One moved to dismiss, citing the protections of a New York civil rights law that allows "fair and accurate" reports of pending cases.

The trial court denied the motion on the basis of Williams v. Williams, which held that lawsuits intended to "disseminate defamatory information" are not protected by fair-reporting laws.

The First Appellate Division in Manhattan affirmed, though it did not rule on the merits of the defamation case.

"Defendants' intention to use the federal action as a (defamatory) device is a factual issue that is sufficiently pleaded and cannot presently be decided," the appeals court wrote.

"We note, as did the motion court, that the press release here ... was not the reportage of an independent publisher but rather was issued by the defendants themselves."

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