WTAE-TV seeks to have defamation suit over photo dismissed
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WTAE-TV's parent company fired back late Wednesday at a defamation lawsuit filed by a Fayette County woman who claimed that her photo was mistakenly aired in a story on an alleged kidnapping.
Kathy Bass, now 49, sued WTAE over an August 2010 story about charges against her daughter, Kathy Ann Bass, now 24. The elder Ms. Bass's photo was run on the station's newscast, causing her acute and lasting embarrassment, according to the complaint by attorney C.J. Engel.
Attorneys for WTAE's parent company, Hearst Stations Inc., transferred the case last week from the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas to U.S. District Court. Wednesday night Hearst filed a motion to dismiss the case.
Attorneys for Hearst wrote that the lawsuit was filed in a way that violates the one-year statute of limitations on defamation claims. The delay, Hearst's lawyers wrote in a brief, may stem from "misgivings about pursuing a claim alleging misidentification as an arrestee when she in fact has an arrest history of her own, the offending mug shot of plaintiff was provided to the press by authorities, and the arrestee alleged to be mistaken for plaintiff is also named Kathy Bass and believed to be plaintiff's daughter."
Mr. Engel confirmed that his client was the accused's mother, but said, "that doesn't matter." Also irrelevant, he said, was his client's one-time conviction for disorderly conduct.
He said the lawsuit was initiated before the statute of limitations tolled.
Hearst's attorneys wrote that the lone named defendant, WTAE-TV, is not a real entity, so the case should be dismissed.
"I can tell you that when they put my client's picture on the TV and Internet and identified her as a kidnapper, the screen said, WTAE," said Mr. Engel.
Hearst's attorneys could not be reached for immediate response.
The kidnapping charge against the younger Ms. Bass was dropped, but she pleaded guilty to theft, simple assault and terroristic threats, and was sentenced to one to two years in prison.
The defamation case is before U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon.
First Published December 13, 2012 12:15 am