The father of a boy misidentified by the New York Post as a Boston Marathon bombing suspect may soon extract his legal pound of flesh from the tabloid, as he is seeking counsel for a potential lawsuit.
El Houssein Barhoum, father of 16-year-old Salah Barhoum, says the possible lawsuit would seek compensation for the emotional stress and upheaval his family and his son have faced since the erroneous story was printed, reports The Washington Post.
Whether or not the Barhoum family decides to sue, it may be tricky to sue a newspaper.
A defamation suit broadly covers any damage to a person's reputation caused by a statement made by another person.
In order to sue the New York Post for libel, Barhoum or any other potential plaintiff generally need to show that:
- A statement was made. It can be spoken or in this case, written.
- The statement was published. Publication in a major newspaper counts but a statement can be published by saying it on television or writing it on their house.
- The published statement caused you injury. It doesn't necessarily have to be a physical injury. Damage to your business, reputation, or emotional well-being can also suffice in some cases.
- The statement was false. Truth is a complete defense to libel or slander.
- The statement was not privileged. This typically applies to statements made under oath and by lawmakers, but it can also protect statements by journalists.
The New York Post may be able to escape a suit for defamation if the paper's lawyers can successfully argue one of the following:
- It was a matter of public interest. If the Post can prove that Barhoum and the identifying of the bomber was a matter of public interest, it's possible the paper may not be held liable if they made their mistake in good faith.
- Neutral reporting. Legal ground exists that newspapers are often sounding boards for different arguments and ideas, and that in order to have neutral reporting, it must publish various viewpoints.
- It was true. A somewhat circular argument would be that the FBI was indeed looking into Barhoum's son as a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, and despite being later cleared by the FBI, the paper reported it truthfully.
Statute of Limitations
Whatever a potential lawsuit might bring, Barhoum would need to bring his New York Post lawsuit within one year of his injury if he files in New York, and within three years if he sues in Massachusetts. That's an issue Barhoum and his personal injury lawyer will have to discuss.
- New York Post says guys it put on cover are 'cleared' (The Washington Post)
- Elements of Libel and Slander (FindLaw)
- Ricin Suspect Released; Charges Dropped (FindLaw's Blotter)
- George Zimmerman Suing NBC Over 911 Tape (FindLaw's Injured)