from the getting-the-finger dept
The Fourth of July is long in our rearview mirrors, but for some folks the holiday haunts them still. Such is the case with NFL football player Jason Pierre-Paul, who quite famously managed to celebrate our nation's independence by blowing apart a good chunk of his hand a year and a half ago. So too does the holiday likely remain top of mind for ESPN and its reporter, Adam Schefter, who found themselves in a bit of controversy after reporting on Pierre-Paul's condition and tweeting out a copy of the player's medical chart, revealing that he had no digits where there previously had been fingers. Pierre-Paul sued Schefter and ESPN for invading his privacy, arguing that he'd suffered great harm as a result and suggesting that, though Schefter had received the medical chart from a source, the publication of such information might make it less likely for other famous persons to seek medical treatment in the future. ESPN, meanwhile, attempted to spike the lawsuit on First Amendment grounds under an anti-SLAPP statute, arguing that journalists have always been free to provide evidence for stories gained from sources.
Well, the court has ruled against ESPN's attempt to have the suit dismissed, saying the lawsuit will proceed.
New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is suing ESPN and star reporter Adam Schefter over a tweet that revealed an amputated right finger as a result of a July 4 celebration last year. The NFL star asserts he suffered great damage when Schefter showed his four million followers a copy of Pierre-Paul's medical chart. But despite ESPN's First Amendment arguments, a judge on Thursday rejected ESPN's attempt to dismiss, according to a statement from Pierre-Paul's attorney.
ESPN, represented by the same lawyers that represented Gawker, argued that courts "have consistently recognized that a journalist is entitled to include visual evidence corroborating a report on a matter of public concern."
ESPN's lawyers also pointed out that Pierre-Paul is not suggesting that Schefter was prohibited from reporting on the exact details within the chart, which was the actual harming information if any harm actually was done, but that tweeting out the medical chart image itself suddenly was actionable. Why Pierre-Paul chose this attack on ESPN and a journalist rather than whatever source shared the chart with Schefter in the first place is largely left unaddressed, although the depth of the parties' respective pockets likely has something to do with it.
Regardless, this is a disappointing ruling on many levels. Those seeking medical attention certainly do have an expectation of privacy from those providing the healthcare work and one would think HIPAA violations may be in play here as well, but Pierre-Paul has no such expectation of privacy from a journalist covering him. The proper defendant in this case is obviously whomever provided the chart to Schefter and likely over HIPAA violations. Whatever the implications upon privacy at issue here, it seems quite clear that chilling the reporting of journalists who receive information from sources is not hte proper vector for addressing those issues. Between this and the Gawker case, along with the public comments by one well-known would-be politician, we seem to entering a different era in terms of how the press is viewed and treated in America.