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Defamation Lawsuit: Oprah Winfrey Trial Set to Begin

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By Kamika Dunlap on March 19, 2010 1:59 PM

Oprah will find herself in front of a new audience later this month. The trial is set to begin for the talk show queen who will appear in court before a judge and jury to defend a defamation lawsuit.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, trial for the defamation lawsuit could begin as early as March 29.  Lerato Nomvuyo Mzamane, former headmistress of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, claims the talk show host defamed her.

At issue are comments Oprah made in 2007 during a press conference to address allegations of a sex-abuse scandal that at the private school. Her comments implied that the headmistress knew about the incident and covered it up.

U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno says that Oprah Winfrey's comments will be left up to a jury to interpret and decide.

A dorm mother was later charged with abusing and assaulting students.

Lerato Nomvuyo Mzamane claims Winfrey's comments prevented her from finding work for a year.

In general, defamation is any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person's reputation; decreases the respect, regard, or confidence in which a person is held, or induces disparaging, hostile, or disagreeable opinions or feelings against a person.

The judge rejected a claim that Winfrey intentionally inflicted emotional distress in a 128-page opinion.

Oprah Winfrey's state-of-the-art school is about 40 miles south of Johannesburg and continues to operate.

The judge ordered the trial to begin March 29.