A federal judge in Kentucky ruled on Thursday that a $275 million lawsuit from Covington Catholic student Nicholas Sandmann against NBCUniversal can proceed in court, the third lawsuit from Sandmann that the judge has allowed to proceed.
“U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsman dismissed parts of the lawsuit while allowing discovery on allegations that the network’s coverage defamed the teen by reporting that he ‘blocked’ Native American elder Nathan Phillips in a Jan. 18 encounter at the Lincoln Memorial,” The Washington Times reported.
“[T]he court finds that the statements that plaintiff ‘blocked’ Phillips or did not allow him to retreat, if false, meet the test of being libelous per se under the definition quoted above,” said Judge Bertelsman in his order.
Sandmann attorney Lin Wood wrote on Twitter: “As predicted, today Judge Bertelsman entered an order allowing the Nicholas Sandmann case against NBCUniversal to proceed to discovery just as he had earlier ruled with respect to WaPo & CNN cases. Huge, huge win!”
As predicted, today Judge Bertelsman entered an order allowing the Nicholas Sandmann case against NBCUniversal to proceed to discovery just as he had earlier ruled with respect to WaPo & CNN cases. Huge, huge win!
— Lin Wood (@LLinWood) November 21, 2019
Late last month, Bertelsman reversed course on Sandmann’s $250 million lawsuit against The Washington Post after having initially blocked it from moving forward.
“After reviewing an amended complaint, Judge William Bertelsman ordered Monday that the case could enter the discovery phase and hence a portion of the lawsuit against the newspaper could continue,” the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. “The judge’s order that discovery can continue means Sandmann’s legal team can make requests for internal Washington Post documents concerning the events like emails and communications between editors and reporters.”
Bertelsman allowed the lawsuit to proceed after tossing out 30 of the 33 examples of what Sandmann’s legal team had tried to argue were libelous statements.
“The Court will adhere to its previous rulings as they pertain to these statements except Statements 10, 11, and 33, to the extent that these three statements state that plaintiff ‘blocked’ Nathan Phillips and ‘would not allow him to retreat,’” Bertelsman said, according to a separate report from The Washington Times. “Suffice to say that the Court has given this matter careful review and concludes that ‘justice requires’ that discovery be had regarding these statements and their context. The Court will then consider them anew on summary judgment.”
Following the judge’s October ruling, Sandmann attorney Todd V. McMurty noted that the ruling was a good sign for the $275 million lawsuits against NBCUniveral and CNN.
McMurtry added on Twitter: “NEWSFLASH: Federal Judge William O. Bertelsman partially reversed his ruling to dismiss #nicksandmann’s claims against the @washingtonpost. Nick’s case may now proceed into discovery. The ruling bodes [well] for the NBC and CNN cases, as well.”
“This is a huge win,” McMurtry concluded. “Now #NickSandmann will be able to start discovery and find out exactly what the reporters were thinking when they attacked Nicholas and the #CovingtonCatholic kids.”
— Todd V. McMurtry (@ToddMcMurtry) October 28, 2019
In March, Sandmann’s legal team released a video explaining the incident that led to their decision to file massive lawsuits against numerous media organizations.
“Last January, 16-year-old Nicholas Sandmann was falsely targeted, attacked, vilified, and threatened,” the video begins. “The Washington Post, owned by the richest man in the world, led the print media’s false attacks against Nicholas’ reputation. CNN led the broadcast media’s charge against Nicholas. Both recklessly spread lies about a minor to advance their own financial and political agendas.”
“Despite raw video debunking the false narrative, the Post and CNN doubled down on their reckless lies,” the video continues. “Lies that will forever haunt and endanger the life of an innocent young man. Lies that further divided our nation.”
“How long will we allow these media giants to tear at the fabric of our lives to further their own agendas? Will they ever be held accountable? Yes, they will,” the video adds. “Nicholas Sandman has taken a stand for himself and for you by filing major lawsuits against CNN and the Washington Post. Nicholas and his legal team will not be stopped until these Goliath corporations are held accountable for their lack of journalistic integrity. Until then, no one’s reputation is safe.”
This report has been updated to include additional information.