Legal Insurrection Analysis: Rolling Stone Defamation Verdict

Originally published by Legal Insurrection

Last Friday, in the civil suit regarding the Sabrina Erdely story about an alleged gang rape at UVA—the attention-getting piece that portrayed “Jackie” as victim extraordinaire—the periodical Rolling Stone and journalist Sabrina Erdely were found guilty of defamation with actual malice:

A 10-person jury in Richmond, Va., found that Rolling Stone defamed a university administrator who was in charge of handling student complaints of sexual misconduct at the school…

In a lawsuit filed last year, then-UVA associate dean of students Nicole Eramo alleged that the article and interviews Ms. Erdely gave about her reporting cast the administrator as the callous villain of its tale and falsely asserted that she discouraged a student identified only as “Jackie” from taking her rape allegations to the police.

Key to the verdict against Rolling Stone itself was its delayed decision to retract the story, according to the jury’s verdict form.

The jury then proceeded to the damage phase of the trial. Eramo, who had been moved by UVA from her deanship to an administrative job she reported enjoying much less, said that as a result of the article she had contemplated suicide at one point, suffered health complications, and become the target of a bullying campaign. She had asked for $7.5 million in damages, and the jury awarded her a total of $3 million: $2 million from Erdely and $1 million from Rolling Stone.

That may sound like a significant amount of money, but…

To read the full article, click here!