UVA Dean Files Defamation Lawsuit Against Rolling Stone, Author
UVA Dean Nicole Eramo has filed a lawsuit against Rolling Stone Magazine and one of its writers for an article that centered on an alleged rape at a University of Virginia fraternity.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A lawsuit has now been filed against Rolling Stone Magazine and one of its writers for an article that centered on an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity.
UVA Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo filed the lawsuit in Charlottesville Circuit Court Tuesday morning. The suit names Rolling Stone Magazine, author Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Wenner Media, claiming false and defamatory statements were made about her in the article. The suit asks for $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages in legal costs.
The 76-page defamation lawsuit explains facts about the Rolling Stone article, the errors it made and the fallout Eramo has faced from it. Eramo is the top administrator who deals with sexual assaults at UVA.
In November 2014, Rolling Stone magazine published an article titled “A Rape on Campus” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely. In the article, a student known as 'Jackie' described being brutally gang raped at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at UVA in September 2012.
Soon after being published the disturbing allegations in the article quickly fell apart. In December 2014, Rolling Stone issued an apology, pointing out that discrepancies in Jackie's story were discovered.
Several weeks later, Rolling Stone contacted the Columbia Journalism School to conduct an investigation of what had gone wrong, the school published a report saying the magazine failed in the reporting and editing of the story.
UVA released a statement about Eramo's lawsuit, saying, "Dean Eramo is well within her rights to pursue this private legal action. The university fully supports and appreciates the professional competency and contributions of Dean Eramo."
Legal analyst Lloyd Snook says in these types of civil cases, lawyers have to prove falsity and injury in a courtroom. "When the case gets to court, there will be two things going on: First is just the purely legal; was something false said, was there injury? The second thing is how does the jury as a whole feel about the Rolling Stone? If they're mad, and I expect them to be, it could be an expensive day for the Rolling Stone," he stated.
Snook adds that a majority of these types of defamation lawsuits get settled outside of court.
A month ago, Eramo sent a harsh letter blasting Rolling Stone's "lack of accountability." She wrote that she has received emails expressing hope that she was killed or raped after what was written about her.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Dean Eramo news release:
Nicole Eramo, Associate Dean of Students at the University of Virginia, today filed a defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, and Wenner Media for false and defamatory statements published about Dean Eramo in the now discredited Rolling Stone article “A Rape On Campus,” and also in other public statements promoting the article.
The Complaint alleges that the defendants made the defamatory statements about Dean Eramo recklessly and in purposeful disregard of facts, witnesses, and evidence, in order to present a preconceived storyline that Dean Eramo discouraged the reporting of a violent rape to law enforcement because she was more concerned with protecting the University's reputation than with assisting victims of sexual assault. The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism found that the Rolling Stone article was the product of “systemic” journalistic and editorial problems, and that the reporters and editors involved in the publication of the article “ignored basic safeguards” and violated commonly accepted journalistic norms that would have prevented the false statements from being published.
In a recent “Open Letter To Rolling Stone," Dean Eramo described the devastating impact the false article has had on the University of Virginia community, advocacy on behalf of sexual assault survivors, and to her own personal and professional reputation. “The Rolling Stone article has caused so much damage and reputational harm, both to me and also to so many others,” Dean Eramo said. “I am filing this defamation lawsuit to set the record straight — and to hold the magazine and the author of the article accountable for their actions in a way they have refused to do themselves.” The lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court of the City of Charlottesville, seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.
A fund has been established to help defray the cost of the lawsuit for Dean Eramo. Information about the fund and an online form to make a donation — can be found at https://www.crowdrise.com/TrueHoos/fundraiser/truehoos1.
Dean Eramo is represented by Tom Clare and Libby Locke from Clare Locke LLP, a boutique law firm specializing in defamation litigation
University of Virginia statement:
“The University of Virginia previously stated that the Rolling Stone article is an example of irresponsible journalism, which has damaged the reputation of many innocent individuals and the University of Virginia.
“Dean Eramo is well within her rights to pursue this private legal action.
The University fully supports and appreciates the professional competency and contributions of Dean Eramo and all of her colleagues who work tirelessly in the support of our students and their safety and well being.”
Anthony P. de Bruyn