An appeals court rejected senior Trump adviser Jason Miller’s $100 million libel lawsuit over a story about claims that he slipped a woman an abortion pill in a smoothie after impregnating her.
ATLANTA (CN) — The 11th Circuit on Friday unanimously rejected senior Trump adviser Jason Miller’s attempt to revive his libel lawsuit against now-defunct news site Splinter.
Miller, who also served on the former president’s 2016 campaign and 2020 reelection campaign, filed a $100 million lawsuit against Gizmodo Media Group and a Splinter News reporter over a 2018 story about court documents alleging that Miller slipped an abortion pill into a smoothie of a woman he impregnated.
A Florida federal judge ruled in favor of Gizmodo and reporter Katherine Krueger in 2019, finding that the story was a “true and fair” representation of allegations contained in a court filing.
In a 16-page ruling issued Friday, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit upheld the lower court’s decision and decided that the New York fair report privilege law protected the defendants from civil liability.
The fair report privilege “provides in relevant part that a ‘civil action cannot be maintained . . . for the publication of a fair and true report of any judicial proceeding,’” the ruling penned by U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan, a Barack Obama appointee, explains.
The story derived from filings in a Miami family court custody battle between Miller and Arlene Delgado, a former spokesperson for the Trump campaign. Miller and Delgado had an affair which resulted in the birth of a son in July 2017.
The document, which was filed as part of a motion asking the court to consider a psychological evaluation of Miller, alleged that the unnamed woman wound up in the emergency room due to blood loss caused by the pill, almost went into a coma, and lost the baby.
Miller was fired from his job as a CNN commentator in September 2018 after the report went viral. He claimed Splinter had no right to relay Delgado’s allegations to the general public.
According to Friday’s ruling, both Miller and the woman testified that they had never had sex, that no pregnancy occurred and that the woman had never lost a pregnancy as a result of any drink given to her by Miller. An attorney for Miller called the allegations “salacious” during oral arguments in the case in August.
But the 11th Circuit decided that the New York fair report privilege law applies to the publication of information filed and sealed in a Florida paternity or child custody proceeding.
The panel rejected Miller’s argument that the 1970 decision in Shiles v. News Syndicate Co. applied in the case. In Shiles, the New York Court of Appeals found the fair report privilege does not apply to reports of sealed filings in matrimonial proceedings.
There is some dispute in the case about whether the document was under seal when Splinter published it. The ruling explains that Delgado did not file the document under seal but Miller submitted a motion to designate it as confidential the following day.
In a footnote, Jordan wrote that the dispute over whether the document was sealed “is not material” to the appeal and the court assumes that it has been sealed since the filing.
“Based on our independent review of New York law, we agree with the district court and hold that Shiles precludes the application of the § 74 privilege only when the publication concerns court records that have been automatically sealed,” the judge wrote.
In a statement provided by his attorneys Friday, Miller said he was “obviously disappointed in the outcome” of the case.
“But this decision does not change the fact that the story Gizmodo and Katherine Krueger published based on AJ Delgado’s fabricated motion in Family Court was indisputably false,” he said.
Jordan was joined on the panel by U.S. Circuit Judges Barbara Lagoa and Andrew Brasher, both appointees of Donald Trump.