JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Rolling Stone magazine faces a potential lawsuit from a University of Virginia fraternity chapter over a discredited article about an alleged gang rape, but WOKV’s legal analyst thinks it will likely settle out of court.
“It’s not quite an open and shut case here,” Rubin says.
The University of Virginia chapter of Phi Kappa Psi would have to prove Rolling Stone made false statements if they choose to file a defamation of character lawsuit.
“And there’s a fine line between being wrong, and being false,” Rubin says.
The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism report released Monday blasts the magazine for poor fact gathering, verification and failing to engage in “basic, even routine journalistic practice.”
Police in Virginia said they could find no evidence to back up the gang rape allegation, but they admit it does not mean “something terrible” did not happen.
And the woman who told the story to Rolling Stone, identified only as “Jackie,” has stood by her story.
“She still says that she was assaulted,” Rubin says. “And truth is a defense. So Rolling Stone will be able to assert, if they’re sued for defamation, that they just reported accurately. They just weren’t good at following up with the loose ends.”
Rubin believes the fraternity would have a good “false light” case against the magazine, but the State of Virginia does not recognize the “false light” tort.
He thinks the case will settle out of court to avoid potential damage to Rolling Stone’s reputation.