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I wonder if I’ll get sued for writing this…

In June 2010, Scottie Pippen won a $2M verdict against the law firm Pedersen & Houpt, which he sued for malpractice, surrounding his purchase of a Gulfstream jet in 2002. He originally asked the jury for $8M, but they determined that Pippen himself was at least partly to blame, and so they awarded him the lesser amount. Still not a bad payday for Scottie Pippen, though, who had already received a $1.5M settlement from another defendant in the same action. Then last month, Pippen’s attorneys filed a lawsuit (PDF) asking for more than $18M from CBS, NBC, and eight other defendants, alleging that they defamed him by reporting that he was bankrupt.

The allegations stem from a CBSSports.com story that ran about six months after Pippen’s $3.5M payday, Money a problem for a lot of former players, which reported that he was among several high-profile athletes who’d gone bankrupt, and featured a huge picture of the former Chicago Bull (the article has since been removed from CBSSports.com but is attached to the complaint as Exhibit 2 (PDF)). Not long after, in April 2011, CNBC.com published a similar article titled 15 Athletes Gone Bankrupt (also removed from their website, attached as Exhibit 1 (PDF)).

Also named as defendants in the complaint, are Comcast and GE, the parent corps. of NBC/CNBC, and these others, each of which are linked to a PDF-file of the offending publication: Arizona State University, Yakezie Network d/b/a One Money Design, Mint Software, InvestingAnswers.com, Sportsreport360.com, HoopsVibe.com, and a student newspaper published by the University of Tampa.

I’ve previously explained the law of defamation, which is commonly misunderstood by laypersons. Actually, after reading the complaint, it appears that Pippen’s own attorneys don’t have a full grasp of the law of defamation. Aside from that, the complaint rambles on and on with irrelevant puffery relating to Scottie Pippen’s public service, and even contains a photograph—I’m not talking about attached exhibits either—page twelve shows a photograph of Pippen at a charity event with other Bulls players, donating laptops to a Chicago elementary school. As if that weren’t bad enough, it also appears that the exhibits attached to the complaint are commingled with evidence from an entirely different lawsuit! (I’ve attached a PDF file of the complaint with all exhibits, exactly as filed with the court.)

The law of defamation differs somewhat in this case because of the fact that Pippen is a “public figure.” In my next post, I’ll discuss the importance of that distinction, and I’ll also break down the allegations in the complaint one by one.

Photo credit: CR Artist