CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) – The caretaker for one of the last late Munchkins claims The National Enquirer defamed her by quoting malicious statements from the late Munchkin’s niece, whom she also sued in a pro se complaint.
Linda K. Dodge sued American Media and Janet L. Finocchiaro in St. Louis County Court.
Finocchiaro is the niece of Mickey Carroll, whose given name was Michael Finocchiaro, according to the complaint.
Carroll played three Munchkin characters in the 1939 movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” and was one of the last surviving Munchkins when he died on May 7, 2009. (Meinhardt Frank Raabe was believed to be the last surviving Munchkin when he died on April 9, 2010.)
Dodge says the defendants defamed her in a May 25, 2009 National Enquirer article that accused her of abusing Carroll and stealing more than $1 million from him while she was his caretaker.
She says the libelous statements include these allegations: that she stole more than $1 million from Carroll; that she assaulted and physically abused Carroll; that she isolated Carroll from his family; that she took advantage of Carroll in his ill health and deteriorating medical condition to have him sign all of his property and money over to her. She says the Enquirer published a photo of Carroll with bruises on his face and claimed that she was responsible for them.
Dodge says those are criminal allegations, that they are false, and that The National Enquirer “knew the statements were false and libelous when published.”
She claims that Janet Finocchiaro gave The National Enquirer the false information.
“The statements made by defendant were known to her to be false, were made without justification of cause and were made maliciously for the purpose of injuring plaintiff’s reputation and subjecting plaintiff to criminal prosecution,” the complaint states.
Dodge says she was friends with Carroll for the last 20 years of his life and that he and his disabled nephew moved in with her in 2009 so that Dodge could care for them. Dodge said she had power of attorney over Carroll’s estate and was one of three people who could make medical decisions for him.
CORRECTION (Posted Friday, June 10, 2011):
Courthouse News received this message about our Tuesday story on a defamation claim against the National Enquirer, filed by the caretaker of one of the last surviving Munchkins:
“Your June 7, 2011, article on the estate of Mickey Carroll mentions Meinhardt Frank Raabe as being the last of the Munchkins. As I write this I’m quite certain that Munchkins Jerry Maren and my friend Margaret Pellegrini are still alive.
“Regards, Daniel Burnette”
Courthouse News rejoices and thanks Daniel Burnette for the information.