The Rather Suit: What Was Dismissed

...and what remains

As has been reported here and elsewhere, Justice Ira Gammerman—the judge hearing Dan Rather’s lawsuit against CBS—today issued a motion to dismiss four of the seven counts of the suit. The three remaining counts, however, encompass the $70 million in damages—$20 million in compensatory and $50 million in punitive—that Rather is seeking from CBS.

Gammerman dismissed the claims against individual defendants— Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, CBS President Leslie Moonves, and former CBS News President Andrew Heyward—because, the judge wrote, the men’s actions against Rather were within the scope of their employment.

Very little else, however, as a reading of today’s decision (text embedded below) makes clear, has substantively changed about the Rather case as a result of today’s decision. Gammerman dismissed Rather’s claim of fraud against CBS/Viacom, for example, only because he found it redundant given Rather’s breach-of-contract claim: “Rather adduces the same factual allegations to support both claims,” Gammerman writes (on page 8 of the decision).

Similarly, the judge dismissed Rather’s defamation claim not on its merits, but because he deemed it time-barred—in other words, because it had been filed after the expiration of a defamation claim’s one-year statute of limitations. (Gammerman cites as his precedent, interestingly, Morrison v National Broadcasting Co.: Morrison was a contestant on 21, the infamously rigged quiz show, in the 1950s, and sued NBC for defamation of character under the claim that, as cheating had taken place on the show, Morrion’s own integrity had been impugned due to his involvement with it. Morrison’s charge was similarly dismissed for being filed after the one-year limit.)

As for the rest of the Rather suit, none of its facts are—as yet—in dispute, and the case is moving forward.

In response to the decision, CBS released a statement:

We are gratified that the court has dismissed the majority of Mr. Rather’s claims, including the spurious claims against Mr. Redstone, Mr. Moonves and Mr. Heyward, as well as the false charges of fraud, tortious interference with prospective business relations, breach of good faith and fair dealing. With respect to the few remaining claims, relevant to his contract, there are no facts to support them and we expect them to be dismissed when the discovery process is complete.

And here’s Martin Gold, Rather’s lawyer, in a statement to the Huffington Post:

Justice Gammerman issued a decision today which leaves in place the entire essence of Mr. Rather’s lawsuit against CBS and Viacom, including both contract and tort claims. Although not every legal theory of the case survives, as a result of the decision, the Court has permitted discovery and a trial of all of the factual issues that form the basis of Mr. Rather’s lawsuit, including his $70 million claim for compensatory and punitive damages. The defendants’ statement that all that is left is a “garden variety contract dispute” is simply inaccurate.

Luckily, you can judge for yourself. Here’s the text of the Gammerman decision:

Dan Rather vs. CBS Corporation, Viacom, Inc. - Get more documents

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.