COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
CIVIL ACTION NO:____________
RACHEL P. CANN,
THE HEARST CORPORATION
a Delaware corporation d/b/a
WCVB-TV; NATALIE JACOBSON,
individually, and in her capacity as an
employee of THE HEARST CORPORATION
d/b/a WCVB-TV; and JORGE QUIROGA,
individually, and in is capacity as an employee
of THE HEARST CORPORATION
COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES
Plaintiff, RACHEL P. CANN (hereinafter "Plaintiff"), sues Defendants, THE HEARST CORPORATION, a Delaware corporation doing business as WCVB-TV (hereinafter "HEARST" and "WCVB"); NATALIE JACOBSON, individually, and in her capacity as an employee of HEARST d/b/a WCVB; and JORGE QUIROGA, individually, and in his capacity as an employee of HEARST d/b/a WCVB; jointly and severally, and pleading her counts in the alternative, alleges as follows:
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
1) This is a civil action for damages brought by the former President of a dissolved Massachusetts charitable corporation against a foreign corporation licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to conduct business as a television station serving the greater Boston, Massachusetts area. This controversy is based upon a defamatory television broadcast in which the Defendants committed slander and libel against the Plaintiff. This action is also brought under a common law theory of negligence. As a direct and proximate result of the Defendants' tortuous conduct, Plaintiff has suffered injuries consisting of pecuniary losses, bodily injury, and great mental pain and suffering. Consequently, Plaintiff seeks a judgment for money damages, in addition to interest and costs to compensate her for the Defendants wrongful conduct.
2) This case was originally filed within the statute of limitations in the Federal Court and dismissed without prejudice based upon the jurisdictional threshold of $75,000.
3) The Plaintiff is a citizen of the State of Florida and resides in the City of St. Petersburg, County of Pinellas, and is in all respects sui juris.
4) The Defendant, HEARST, is a corporation duly organized, existing and lawfully incorporated within and under the laws of the State of Delaware and maintains its principal place of business at 959 Eighth Avenue, New York City, State of New York, and is in all respects sui juris. WCVB-TV is currently owned by HEARST-ARGYLE STATIONS, INC., a Nevada corporation, which maintains its principal place of business at 959 Eighth Avenue, New York, New York.
5) The Defendant, JACOBSON, is a natural person and a citizen of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and is, in all respects sui juris.
6) The Defendant, QUIROGA, is a natural person and a citizen of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and is, in all respects sui juris.
FACTS COMMON TO ALL COUNTS
7) At all times material hereto and at the time of the incident herein complained of HEARST was licensed by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the call sign "WCVB-TV".
8) Such FCC license enabled and authorized HEARST to conduct the business of operating the television station known as WCVB-TV, which appears on Channel 5, and which TV station is located at WCVB-TV, 5 TV Place, Needham, Massachusetts, 02194; and which television station is legally authorized to its FCC license to utilize the public airways with respect to its broadcasting business. WCVB-TV is currently owned by HEARST-ARGYLE STATIONS, INC., a Nevada corporation, which maintains its principal place of business at 959 Eighth Avenue, New York, New York.
9) At all times material hereto and at the time of the incident herein complained of, THE HEARST CORPORATION owned, controlled and operated and was responsible for the business conduct and compliance with all state and local laws with respect to the activities of WCVB-TV, and its employees who acted under the course and scope of the authority granted to such employees by HEARST/WCVB-TV.
10) At all times material hereto and at the time of the incident herein complained of, HEARST and/or WCVB-TV employed the defendant, JACOBSON to work in the capacity as a news anchor person, or reporter, or news-reader, as well as to perform any other job function assigned to her by other HEARST and/or WCVB-TV personnel.
11) At all times material hereto and at the time of the incident complained of, HEARST and/or WCVB-TV employed the Defendant, QUIROGA, as a reporter who on the date herein complained of appeared on an on-air television broadcast news story designated by Defendant. JACOBSON as "New Center's Jorqe Quiroga is on special assignment"; and further, the subject of such "special assignment" was a story about the Plaintiff and her charitable organization entitled "Rachel's Promise, Inc.'"
12) Upon information and belief, the news story entitled "Special Assignment" which concerned and specifically mentioned the Plaintiff by name, was broadcast by HEARST and/or WCVB-TV some time during but not before the last day of May, 1994.
13) At all times material hereto and at the time of the incident herein complained of, the Plaintiff was the President and Director of a Massachusetts charitable corporation entitled Rachel's Promise, Inc. (hereinafter "RACHEL'S PROMISE"). According to the rider of the Articles of Organization of Rachel's Promise, Inc., the post office address of the initial principal office of RACHEL'S PROMISE is listed as being Suite 202, 1440 Beacon Street, Brookline, Massachusetts 02146
14) At all times material hereto and at the time of the incident herein complained of, the Articles of Organization of RACHEL'S PROMISE listed and described the purpose of RACHEL'S PROMISE as being to engage in the following activities:
(a) To educate, council and instruct men and women:
That human life is a gift From God and that human life begins at conception;
That the unborn child is fully human and is to be accorded under law the status of a person; and
That the importance of personal individual responsibility includes the individual responsibility to protect those who are incapable of protecting themselves particularly the unborn child.
To provide shelter and vocational training to pregnant women."
15) The Bylaws of RACHEL'S PROMISE contains a statement that "Membership is open to anyone regardless of gender, regardless of religious orientation, affiliation or background and regardless of race or national origin."
16) Upon information and belief, at all times material hereto and at the time of the incident herein complained of, RACHEL'S PROMISE had complied with the reporting requirement and obligation imposed by the Public Charities Division of the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, as well as all other requirements imposed under law; and further, the Defendant QUIROGA, as well as the Defendants JACOBSON and HEARST d/b/a WCVB-TV would have discovered this fact if they had acted diligently and in a prudent and reasonable manner by first checking and verifying the facts and ascertaining the veracity of hearsay and double hearsay statements before publicly broadcasting the false May, 1994 story about the Plaintiff, which such false publication contained libelous and slanderous remarks, statements, comments and innuendo, all of which resulted in the Plaintiff being held up to ridicule, scorn, and impeachment of her good character, virtue and integrity in the minds of members in her community; and which was the direct result of such defamatory and false publication by the Defendants.
17) At all times material hereto and at the time of the incident herein complained of, Defendant JACOBSON read words from scripted material printed on WCVB-TV teleprompter which words were spoken by JACOBSON and consisted of the following language of and concerning the Plaintiff: ...for battered women isn't really a shelter at all. Many women who come there for help basically get turned away. And tonight there is concern that the operator of the center is using a noble cause to line her own pockets with donations." "News Center's Jorge Quiroga is on Special Assignment".
18) During this "Special Assignment" story, QUIROGA specifically identified and named the operator of the above-referred to shelter/center by stating "The Brookline Women's Shelter is also known as Rachel's Promise. Rachel Cann is the Director." QUIROGA went on to state that "State law is clear. If donations are solicited for a charity, they have to be used for the charity. The Attorney General's office will not confirm that it is investigating, but it has received several complaints that the Brookline Women's Shelter is not what it claims to be." QUIROGA's negative allegations were clearly misleading to the public at large because upon information and belief there is no such public charity entitled "The Brookline Women's Shelter." Moreover, QUIROGA by this false and deceptive statement sought to intentionally mislead the viewing and listening public by inappropriately linking the Plaintiff with a non-existent, allegedly public charity.
19) As a direct and proximate result of the words spoken by JACOBSON and QUIROGA, and the words read by JACOBSON, such words were published to third persons consisting of virtually tens of thousands of people who had viewed and listened to the defamatory television broadcast over the public airways.
20) The defamatory language uttered and read by the Defendants, JACOBSON and QUIROGA, were intentionally directed towards and applied to the Plaintiff and were intentional, reckless and malicious false statements of fact in spite of the fact that there was information given to the reporter by a reliable witness who was present at the place and time of the interview, to wit that RACHEL CANN was helping many women and that the allegations of theft were false.
21) Defendants HEARST d/b/a WCVB-TV, JACOBSON and QUIROGA were at fault in publishing the defamatory statement to third persons by virtue of the fact that they acted negligently in failing to exercise reasonable care in ascertaining the falsity of such defamatory statements; which they could have done had they conducted a diligent and reasonable inquiry and investigation into the true facts instead of relying on innuendo, speculation, hearsay statements and underlying agendas adverse to the stated purpose of Rachel's Promise, Inc.; such Defendants also acted recklessly, intentionally, and maliciously with respect to such omissions of the proper standard of care and conduct to be engaged in by legitimate and ethical members of the television industry.
22) HEARST is liable for damages as a primary publisher of the above-described defamatory statement.
DEFAMATORY SLANDER AND LIBEL
(As to all Defendants)
The Plaintiff herewith reavers and realleges each and every allegation and fact contained in paragraphs 1 through 22 hereof, and by reference thereto fully incorporates same herein as though fully set forth and further says:
23) The words spoken by defendants JACOBSON and QUIROGA were defamatory, slanderous language because such language tended to, and in fact did, adversely affect the Plaintiff's reputation for honesty, integrity, and virtue. Furthermore, JACOBSON's statement that the Center "isn't really a shelter at all ... and tonight there is concern that the operator of the Center (who QUIROGA clearly identified as RACHEL CANN) is using a noble cause to line her own pockets with donations", was false and clearly establishes slander and liable per se because such words accused the Plaintiff of theft through misappropriation of charitable funds; thereby casting her in the public light as a scam artist and disreputable individual exposing the Plaintiff to public wrath.
24) The words read by JACOBSON and QUIROGA were libelous because they had the same effect, result, and consequences as described in the preceding paragraph numbered 23, and were also false and negligently uttered and read to the public at large.
25) JACOBSON and QUIROGA are liable for damages as a primary and/or secondary publisher of the above-described defamatory statements, as well as also being liable in their capacity as employees of HEARST d/b/a WCVB-TV under a vicarious liability theory of respondent superior.
26) As a direct and proximate result of the defamatory conduct committed by the Defendants, as herein above alleged and described, the Plaintiff has suffered and will continue to suffer the following damages:
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff RACHEL P. CANN, demands judgment for damages against Defendants, THE HEARST CORPORATION, A Delaware corporation d/b/a WCVB-TV; NATALIE JACOBSON, individually and in her capacity as an employee of HEARST d/b/a WCVB-TV; and JORGE QUIROGA, individually and in his capacity as an employee of HEARST d/b/a WCVB-TV, in the amount of One Million ($1,000,000.00) Dollars, jointly and severally, including interest and costs, and whatever additional relief this Honorable Court deems just, equitable and proper.
(As to all Defendants)
The Plaintiff herewith reavers and realleges each and every allegation and fact contained in Paragraphs 1 through 26 hereof, and by reference thereto fully incorporates same herein as though fully set forth, and further says:
27) Defendants owed Plaintiff a duty of reasonable care in conducting an adequate, appropriate and thorough factual investigation into the facts and law underlying the subject matter of the news story HEARST/WCVB-TV was contemplating broadcasting involving Plaintiff.
28) The Defendants breached such duty by failing to conduct the above-described investigation in a reasonable manner.
29) This breach resulted in false and defamatory language being communicated to the public at large through the above-described television broadcast.
30) This breach was the legal and proximate cause of the damages suffered by the Plaintiff, all as are specifically above-enumerated and claimed in Paragraph 27 hereof.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff, RACHEL P. CANN, demands judgment for damages against Defendants, THE HEARST CORPORATION, A Delaware corporation d/b/a WCVB-TV; NATALIE JACOBSON, individually, and in her capacity as an employee of HEARST d/b/a WCVB-TV; and JORGE QUIROGA, individually and in his capacity as an employee of HEARST d/b/a WCVB-TV; in the amount of ONE MILLION ($1,000,000.00) DOLLARS, jointly and severally, including interest and costs, and whatever additional relief this Honorable Court deems just, equitable and proper.
DEMAND FOR A JURY TRIAL
Plaintiff hereby demands a trial by jury of all issues so triable as a matter of right and law.
Dated this 16th day of February, 2000.
RACHEL P. CANN, Pro Se
10401 Bay Pines Boulevard, Lot 13
St. Petersburg, Florida 33708