SW Legal Educational Publishing

TV Station and Reporter May Be Liable for Fraud in "Investigative Reporting" Case
Description TV station and reported lied to get reporter accepted as volunteer at facility for mentally disabled persons. Secret filming of purportedly improper care was basis of television story that followed. Appeals court affirmed that suit for fraud and other torts could proceed.
Topic Torts
Key Words Fraud, Misrepresentation
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Johnson, an employee of television station WCCO applied to be a volunteer at Special Force, a care facility for mentally retarded persons in Minnesota. Johnson claimed she was unemployed and listed as references other WCCO employees, who backed up her false background story. She worked as a volunteer for 120 hours during which time she used a hidden camera to record scenes used in a news report that claimed to show bad treatment at the facility. Special Force and various parties who worked there sued WCCO and Johnson for various torts. Trial court refused to dismiss the case. Defendants appealed.
Decision Affirmed. Johnson and other station employees "affirmatively misrepresented that she was unemployed and failed to disclose that she was employed by WCCO." Had Special Force known the truth, it would not have "placed her in a position of trust working with its vulnerable residents." It is a question of fact "as to whether respondents' claimed damages for emotional distress, humiliation, and aggravated physical and mental ailments were proximately caused by appellants' deceit."
Citation Special Force Ministries v. WCCO Television, ---N.W.2d--- (1998 WL 713804, Ct. App., Minn.)
or
584 N.W.2d 789 (Ct. App., Minn., 1998)

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