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Archive for Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Wal-Mart wins round in Missouri libel case

September 4, 2002

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— An appeals court has sent the case of a Lee's Summit woman who won a libel award from Wal-Mart to the Missouri Supreme Court, saying the state's requirements for proving defamation need clarification.

The Missouri Court of Appeals on Friday reversed a $425,833 award Carolyn Kenney won from Wal-Mart in December 2000, after the retailer posted a missing-child flier that pictured her and her 16-month-old granddaughter.

Kenney contended the Wal-Mart in Lee's Summit didn't take the poster off its missing-children bulletin board for days after the store was told that the child was not missing.

The girl's mother, who was involved in a custody dispute with the girl's father, distributed the poster to various retailers after the father and Kenney took the girl to the Lake of the Ozarks and did not return her at the appointed time.

The court said the Jackson County judge presiding over the case gave improper instructions to the jury on requirements for proving defamation.

The appeals court sent the case to the state Supreme Court "because we believe that this case presents questions of general interest and importance and the existing law of defamation needs re-examining."

The court said jury instructions now used conflict with a state Supreme Court ruling issued in 2000 that a private person must prove that the alleged defamatory statements are actually false.

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