SACRAMENTO — A young Antioch man who says he was falsely depicted in pro-Proposition 51 advertising as a drunk driver convicted of manslaughter has filed a $40-million libel and slander suit.
The suit by James Edward Blackburn said that a newspaper article misstated facts and that radio and television ads were part of "an overall conspiracy by the insurance companies to embark upon a campaign against lawyers" to limit insurance recovery and lawyers' fees.
Proposition 51, which limits liability awards in some lawsuits, was approved by voters June 3.
Named as defendants were the Los Angeles Times, Contra Costa Times, Taxpayers for Fair Responsibility, the Woodward & McDowell advertising agency, and writer James Galbraith.
The suit said a Los Angeles Times article by Galbraith concerning a July, 1979, accident said, "A speeding car full of beer-drinking teen-agers crashed into a light pole, killing one passenger and severely injuring two others. The driver was convicted of manslaughter." In fact, the suit says that blood tests showed that neither Blackburn, then 17, nor any of the other teen-agers had been drinking, and that Blackburn was never convicted of manslaughter.
Jeffrey S. Klein, a senior staff lawyer of the Los Angeles Times, said Galbraith contributed articles to the commentary page but is not a staff member. Klein said The Times is investigating allegations of error.