CBS' Motion to Dismiss Eliminates Several Dan Rather ClaimsMon Apr 14, 2008 @ 10:25AM PST
Posted by Matthew Heller
A New York judge has pruned fraud and tortious interference claims from Dan Rather's suit against CBS, but allowed the former anchor to proceed with the breach of contract claim which his lawyer says is "the entire essence of the case."
All of Rather's claims revolve around the allegation that CBS "benched" him in the wake of a controversial "60 Minutes" report on President Bush's Texas Air National Guard service, limiting him to only "nominal" assignments between his removal as CBS Evening News anchor in November 2004 and his termination in June 2006.
In this decision on CBS' motion to dismiss, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ira Gammerman said Rather should have "the opportunity to show that his nominal assignments as a correspondent did not relieve CBS from its [contractual] obligation" to pay him in March 2005 all the compensation due to him through Nov. 25, 2006. CBS argued he had no contract claim because it paid him what he was owed at the time of his termination.
CBS prevailed in part as Gammerman dismissed the claim alleging that CBS chief Leslie Moonves made fraudulent misrepresentations to Rather to stop him from making public comments about the "60 Minutes" broadcast. The dismissal of the fraud and tortious interference claims means Moonves and Viacom chief Sumner Redstone are no longer defendants in the case.
"Justice Gammerman issued a decision which leaves in place the entire essence of Mr. Rather's lawsuit against CBS and Viacom, including both contract and tort claims," Martin Gold, lead counsel for Rather, said in a statement. "Although not every legal theory of the case survives, as a result of the decision, the Court has permitted discovery and a trial of all of the factual issues that form the basis of Mr. Rather's lawsuit, including his $70 million claim for compensatory and punitive damages."
Some commentators have questioned Gold's spin. Gammerman, they say, threw out what one blogger called the "crazy conspiracy theory" part of the case. But that door isn't necessarily closed since the judge said Rather can still recover damages to his reputation "resulting from his ouster from the nationally prominent place he had occupied at CBS News, coupled with the near silence that he was required to keep for more than a year."