CALIFORNIA — Ajudge on Wednesday dismissed an emotional distress lawsuit against the editorin chief of the Daily Californian.
Rajesh Srinivasan was sued in a Fresno County small-claimscourt by podiatrist Harvey Purtz over articles written about his late son,Chris Purtz. Purtz’s suit claimed an article and two blog posts “inflict harm”upon his son’s memory. The articles detail an altercation involving Chris Purtzat a San Francisco nightclub, and his departure from the University ofCalifornia at Berkeley football team.
The stories regarding Chris Purtz were published in late2006 and early 2007. Purtz died in June 2010.
According to the DailyCalifornian, Dr. Purtz said at a Jan. 19 hearing that the articles’publication was a “major triggering event” in his son’s life, leading to “deterioration of his mental state and to emotional distress on hisfather’s part.”
“I’m very pleased the court made the correct decision inthis case, but I can understand it was a difficult decision for them to reach,perhaps not legally but from an emotional standpoint, and that was justamplified during the trial,” Srinivasan said.
According to the court’s docket report, Chris Purtz’sobituary linked to the DailyCalifornian’s article, a main argument by Harvey Purtz. Judge Mark Cullersacknowledged the emotional aspect of the lawsuit, but said he must remainmindful of statutes and case law.
“The court is sympathetic to the pain and suffering enduredby the parents of Chris Purtz. The court is mindful that today’s technologyallows stories of loved ones to circulate on the internet in perpetuity.However, the court is also mindful of the applicable policies, statutes andcase law,” Cullers wrote in his opinion.
Purtz demanded Srinivasan, who was in high school when theoriginal story was published, remove the articles from the newspaper’s onlinearchive. Purtz also asked for $7,500.
Cullers decided that Srinivasan owed no money to Purtz.
The court also noted the Uniform SinglePublication Act which states that the statute of limitations on a publicationis determined upon its first distribution to the public and the maximumtwo-year statute of limitations for emotional-distress claims worked againstPurtz’s claim.
Purtz did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Srinivasan said he was sympathetic toward the Purtz family,but maintained his decisions were the publication’s policy.
“I just have to follow [the Daily Californian’s] policy and the court has to follow the rule oflaw and I think they made the right decision in this case, but I stillsympathize with Mr. Purtz and I’m sure the judge did as well,” Srinivasan said.
Student Press Law Center attorney advocate Adam Goldsteinsaid Cullers’ decision wasn’t surprising.
“You can’t argue with the outcome. It was the obviouslycorrect decision. For two reasons: one is that there was no intentionalinfliction of emotional distress here and even if such a claim existedsmall-claims court would be the wrong place to bring it,” Goldstein said.
“Intentional infliction of emotional distress is a veryunusual claim and it’s difficult to analyze and a small-claims court has almostcertainly never seen it. It’s not meant for really arcane, metaphysical issuesof emotional wellbeing. I’m glad it’s over.”