WASHINGTON (CN) – The family of a black physician sued the Washington Post for breach of contract, claiming the Post put unflattering information about the late doctor in his obituary in breach of contract. “Racially denigrating Negro professionals has historically been a device for increasing readership and was employed beyond the scope of the contract,” the Estate of Robert Beale Jr. claims. The estate does not claim the information in the paid obituary was untrue, only that it was beyond the scope of the contract.
Dr. Beale, 62, ran a weight-loss clinic in Washington. He died in a traffic accident in Maryland in 2004. “His estate entered into an obituary contract to have a notice of death with a brief biography,” states the complaint in Superior Court.
The family paid for the obituary.
The Post included in the obituary notice that Beale was convicted of sexual harassment in DC Superior Court in 1999 and ordered to pay $280,000 to three former employees, plus $500,000 in legal fees, and that “Dr. Beale also came under scrutiny for routinely injecting his patients with phenylpropanolamine, an appetite suppressant. A medical consultant for the city said the drug had no clinical value except as a decongestant.”
The family said the contract “never authorized the use of said irrelevant information,” which held the late doctor up to “scornful ridicule, extreme indignation, contempt and mockery.”