In a 65-page opinion issued today, Judge Oetken allowed Peter Paul Biro, who is known for art authentication through fingerprint analysis, to proceed with certain of his defamation and related claims arising from a July 2010 New Yorker article raising questions about him. The article itself is appended to the decision. The defendants had moved to dismiss the complaint in its entirety, and, while Judge Oetken concluded that “most of Biro’s claims for defamation based on the express statements contained in the Article or alleged implications that can be drawn from the Article must be dismissed,” he determined that certain specific statements were potentially actionable. Judge Oetken also determined that the “overall impact” of the article was not defamatory and rejected any claim under that theory:

There is little question that a reader may walk away from the Article with a negative impression of Biro, but that impression would be largely the result of statements of fact that Biro does not allege to be false. There can be no claim for an overall defamatory impact from the reporting of true statements beyond the specific defamatory implications that may arise from those specific statements.  More fundamentally, the Article as a whole does not make express accusations against Biro, or suggest concrete conclusions about whether or not he is a fraud. Rather, it lays out evidence that may raise questions, and allows the reader to make up his or her own mind. . . . . At the end of the Article, the reader is left genuinely uncertain what to believe. Although the Article reports many facts tending to suggest that Biro may not be exactly who he says he is, it also contains extensive interviews with Biro himself, includes Biro’s responses to many of the accusations reported in the Article, and quotes many third party sources with complimentary things to say about Biro. If anything, the Article seeks to draw a parallel between the idea that one can never be wholly certain whether a piece of art is truly “authentic” (whether through connoisseurship or science) with the idea that it is difficult to fully know the truth about who a person is. This type of inquisitive approach falls short of the “hatchet job” that Biro’s counsel described at oral argument. (See Transcript, Dkt. No. 68, at 27.) At the same time, there can be little doubt that even a publication that, on the whole, merely raises questions has the potential to have serious consequences on a plaintiff’s reputation. Thus, where Biro has alleged an actionable defamatory false statement of fact, or false implication, the Court allows the claim to proceed