Yesterday, Judge Daniels dismissed a complaint filed by the family of murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich against Fox News, which alleged that Fox News and two contributors intentionally exploited the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich during the 2016 election season. According to the complaint, Rich was murdered in Washington in what authorities believed was a botched robbery; Fox News then allegedly reported a false story that Rich had been murdered after leaking thousands of DNC emails to Wikileaks (see our complete coverage here).
According to Judge Daniels, while the statements by a Fox News contributor may have been false, they did not rise to the level of “outrageous” conduct required for intentional infliction of emotion distress:
Plaintiffs’ allegations fall short of stating a claim for IIED. Plaintiffs allege that Butowsky and Zimmerman, acting in concert with Fox News, deceived Plaintiffs and capitalized on their vulnerability in the wake of their son’s murder to develop a fake story that Fox News could report. It is understandable that Plaintiffs might feel that their grief and personal loss were taken advantage of, and that the tragic death of their son was exploited for political purposes. However, a general allegation that Defendants had an “agreement to collaborate against” Plaintiffs cannot form the basis for an lIED claim; rather, “specific instances of each individual’s conduct” are required. Plaintiffs allege that the Zimmerman/Fox Article was false because it inaccurately stated that Seth Rich had leaked the DNC emails to WikiLeaks. Plaintiffs also allege that Zimmerman falsely told Plaintiffs about an FBI report that she claims showed Seth Rich had disclosed the DNC emails to WikiLeaks. However, even though Zimmerman’s statements in the Zimmerman/Fox Article and to Plaintiffs about the FBI report were false, such “false statements or misrepresentations-even if intentionally made-do not rise to the level of extreme and outrageous conduct.”
Judge Daniels also dismissed the claims for tortious interference with contract and negligent supervision/retention.