Ohio top court to hear arguments in TV news defamation case

Legal Issues

Ohio's Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday in an appeal involving a defamation lawsuit that alleged a television station falsely labeled three siblings as "robbers."

A Columbus family sued WBNS-TV in 2016 after the station reported on a hover board robbery at Fort Rapids Indoor Waterpark in Columbus and included a surveillance photo showing the faces of three unnamed individuals. Police had released the photo, asking for the public's help in identifying the three individuals they said may have been involved.

The television's website story was headlined, "Robbers Put Gun to Child's Head and Steal Hoverboard," and underneath was the photo of the three individuals.

Nanita Williams saw the broadcast story and realized it was her three children in the photo, the family's lawsuit said. She took them to a Columbus police station where they told investigators they had gone to the park that day to deliver Thanksgiving dinner to someone who worked there.

Columbus police then issued a second news release saying the three individuals in the surveillance photo weren't the robbery suspects and asked news outlets to stop using the photo. WBNS stopped broadcasting stories about the robbery and removed the photo from its website, but kept the story about the incident online.

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