Federal Appeals Court Rules Seth Rich’s Family Can Sue Fox News

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 4: Mary Rich, the mother of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich, gives a press conference in Bloomingdale on August 1, 2016. Seth Rich was gunned down in the DC neighborhood a month ago and the Rich's... WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 4: Mary Rich, the mother of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich, gives a press conference in Bloomingdale on August 1, 2016. Seth Rich was gunned down in the DC neighborhood a month ago and the Rich's were imploring people for any information they may have about his killer. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images) MORE LESS

Seth Rich’s family can sue Fox News over the retracted story it ran on a far-right conspiracy theory surrounding their son’s death.

A federal appeals court in Manhattan on Friday ruled against a previous district court’s order to dismiss their lawsuit complaint, arguing that the family, Joel and Mary Rich, could in fact sue over emotional distress they claim was caused by the May 2017 article. The article alleged that Seth Rich had leaked Democratic National Committee emails to WikiLeaks and implied that that move had resulted in his murder. The article was retracted a week later for not meeting Fox News’ journalistic standards.

Circuit Judge Guido Calabresi argued in the Friday ruling that the Riches had “sufficiently pleaded extreme and outrageous conduct” by the Fox News defendants.

In a statement shared with TPM Friday, Fox News expressed its condolences to the family but maintained the network was innocent of the allegations.

“The court’s ruling today permits Mr. and Mrs. Rich to proceed with discovery to determine whether there is a factual basis for their claims against FOX News,” the spokesperson said. “And while we extend the Rich family our deepest condolences for their loss, we believe that discovery will demonstrate that FOX News did not engage in conduct that will support the Riches’ claims. We will be evaluating our next legal steps.”

Police believe that Seth Rich was shot and killed near his Washington, D.C. home following a botched robbery in July 2016. At the time, he was working for the DNC. The Rich family sued Fox News and the reporter Malia Zimmerman, as well as Fox News guest Ed Butowsky, over the retracted story, but the lawsuit was dismissed in August 2018 when U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan ruled in favor of longstanding media law that argues a dead person cannot be defamed and said the argument of emotional distress was not sufficient.

The appeals court ruling will kick the suit back to Daniels.

Read Calabresi’s full ruling below:

Correction: This post initially reported that Rich was killed in his home in Washington, D.C. 

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest News
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: