Too Late to Claim Book on Malcolm X Was Libelous

     (CN) – A former Nation of Islam minister implicated in Malcolm X’s murder cannot amend his defamation suit that was found to be time barred, a federal magistrate ruled.
     In a complaint last year, Linward Cathcart claimed that Linward was implicated in the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X by the 2011 book “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.”
     Manning Marable, the Columbia University professor who wrote the book, died around the time of publication by Viking Press, an imprint of Penguin Group.
     His book went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for history published in 2012.
     Cathcart and his wife sued Columbia University; Marable’s estate; The Viking Press; Penguin Group (USA) Inc.; and 10 anonymous defendants in New Jersey last year.
     Claiming that Penguin knew or should have known Linward was not involved in the crime, the Cathcarts asserted claims for defamation, emotional distress, and loss of consortium.
     A federal judge ultimately dismissed the suit earlier this year, finding that the defamation claim was barred by the one-year statute of limitations and that the derivative claims could not stand on their own.
     The Cathcarts sought to file an amended complaint that would add two paragraphs to “more aptly describe” Penguin’s role in defaming them.
     They said the publisher failed to “appropriately vet the information claimed by their contracted author.”
     U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Dickson denied the motion Wednesday.
     “Penguin, however, countered that a publisher does not have a duty to independently fact-check a nonfiction work,” the unpublished opinion states. “Plaintiffs, again, did not refute Penguin’s contention. Nor did plaintiffs propose amendments to the complaint that addressed the other argument raised by Penguin in its motion to dismiss, namely that plaintiffs failed to satisfy the pleading standards of Ashcroft v. Iqbal and Twombly because they did not ‘identify the alleged defamatory statements or the source of the defamatory statements with sufficient specificity.’ Rather, plaintiffs relied on the same allegations of the original complaint, which was dismissed by the district court. To the extent that these allegations were insufficient to sustain a defamation claim before, they remain insufficient now.”
     Penguin has ultimately showed that the claims are time-barred, according to the ruling.
     “The proposed amendments do not address, let alone rebut, the argument that the statute of limitations expired on the defamation claim,” Dickson wrote. “Thus, plaintiffs’ proposed amendments are futile insomuch as they do not cure the deficiencies of the defamation claim. Likewise, plaintiffs’ intentional infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium claims, which are derivative of the defamation claim, also fail.”

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