MANHATTAN (CN) – A federal judge gave the green light to a defamation suit against the National Enquirer’s corporate parent for a story stating that Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston had “an intimate relationship before her death.”
Houston supplied tabloids with continuous fodder from her drug use, early death and tumultuous marriage with Brown. She was found dead in a bathtub in a room at the Beverly Hilton on Feb. 11, 2012, six years after their divorce. A medical examiner listed the cause of death as accidental drowning from heart disease and excessive cocaine use.
Brown got remarried to Alicia Etheridge-Brown in June of that year.
Less than a year later, the couple sued American Media and writer Derrick Handspike for a story that said Brown and Houston rekindled their old flame before her death. The publication and scribe tried to throw out the lawsuit under the statute of limitations before the case could be heard on the merits.
Though the story’s cover date was April 2, 2012, all copies of the tabloid actually hit the newsstands weeks earlier, on March 23, 2012.
Brown’s complaint, time-stamped on March 25, 2013, seemingly missed the one-year limit for defamation suits by two days.
But Brown’s attorney swore in an affidavit that he confirmed its receipt in the clerk’s office five days earlier.
Acknowledging that a clerical error is “not inconceivable,” U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken added that the lawsuit was timely anyway because an online version of the article was published on March 26, 2012.
“In any event, Plaintiffs have at least a plausible argument that the initial online publication of the article on the National Enquirer‘s website on March 26, 2012-several days after the paper edition had been sent to subscribers’ homes and sold at newsstands and supermarkets-was a republication,” he wrote.
Attorneys for both parties declined to comment.
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