True Statements Not Defamatory, Court Says

     PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – More than a decade after convincing a jury that a doctor fudged his plastic surgery credentials, a lawyer may finally be able to relax in the wake of a ruling finding that he did not defame the doctor in interviews following the verdict.

     After the 1999 trial, lawyer Daniel Gatti told local newspaper The Oregonian that Dr. Timothy Brown “portrayed himself as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in telephone book ads and literature he gave to potential patients.”
     The newspaper paraphrased Gatti as having said that the verdict in his client’s favor “should send a message to doctors who portray themselves as plastic surgeons when they’re not,” according to the ruling.
     After nearly 12 years of litigation, a three-judge panel for the Court of Appeals of the State of Oregon has found that Gatti’s statements were not defamatory because they were true.
     The long history stems from the question of whether a jury should have heard Brown’s defamation case.
     The Multnomah County Circuit Court dismissed Brown’s initial suit, ruling that Gatti’s statements were not defamatory.
     In 2004, the Appeals Court reinstated the doctor’s claims, finding that a jury should have heard the case.
     In 2006, the Oregon Supreme Court determined that no reasonable juror could have found the statements defamatory, given that Gatti had just won a jury verdict confirming that Brown had misrepresented his qualifications.
     The state Supreme Court sent the case back to the Circuit Court, which again dismissed the lawsuit.
     Brown filed another appeal.
     This time around, the Appeals Court relied on the state Supreme Court’s arguments in 2006 to clear Gatti of Brown’s defamation claims.
     In his statements to the news outlets, Gatti had implied that Brown misrepresented his credentials, Judge P.J. Ortega wrote.
     “Because the implied fact is true, Gatti’s statement is not defamatory,” Ortega wrote.
     Michael J. Walker and L. Phillip Parks of Parks Bauer Sime Winkler & Fernety of Portland, Ore. represented Gatti.

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