A state appeals court has dismissed a defamation lawsuit a former Tacoma man brought against The Seattle Post-Intelligencer over a package of stories on a deadly construction crane accident in 2006.
The decision by the state Court of Appeals, Division II, was published Wednesday.
Warren Yeakey sued the newspaper and its parent company, Hearst Communications Inc., arguing he was defamed in the articles.
He had been operating the crane Nov. 16 when it collapsed at a Bellevue construction site and killed a man in a nearby apartment. The P-I’s front page stories noted Yeakey had convictions for drug-related crimes.
Yeakey, who moved from Tacoma to Central Washington, argued the stories were defamatory because they implied he was responsible for the accident.
A state investigation later determined a flawed engineering design caused the accident, not operator error.
Attorneys for Hearst contended the newspaper story was accurate and had no significant omissions.
Hearst’s attorneys had moved to dismiss the lawsuit but were denied twice by Pierce County Superior Court Judge John McCarthy. Last July, the appeals court agreed to review McCarthy’s denial.
The three-judge panel looked at whether a defamation lawsuit can proceed in a case where all the statements in a publication are true and “where there is no allegation that a false impression could be contradicted by omitted facts,” the published opinion states.
“Nothing in this case suggests that the P-I omitted material facts in its articles,” the opinion states.
The justices sided with the P-I and dismissed the lawsuit.
Yeakey’s attorney, Matt Renda, did not return a call for comment.
Jonathan Donnellan, Hearst’s attorney, welcomed the ruling.
“We are delighted with the decision, which reaffirms the fundamental principle that accurate reporting about matters of public concern cannot be punished without running afoul of the First Amendment,” he said in an e-mail.
Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/crime