WASHINGTON — Rodney Dangerfield, the comic who constantly complains of getting no respect, failed Monday in a Supreme Court bid to wring more money from a supermarket tabloid that labeled him a drunkard and drug user.
The court, without comment, let stand rulings that limited to $45,000 Dangerfield's libel award against the Star magazine.
The 1990 article that sparked his lawsuit appeared under the headline "Vegas Casino Accuses Caddyshack Funnyman: Rodney Dangerfield Swills Vodka by the Tumblerful, Smokes Pot All Day and Uses Cocaine." U.S. District Judge Ronald Lew ruled that the article was false, and that the Star had published it "with at least reckless disregard of the truth."
The judge awarded Dangerfield only $45,000 in presumed damages because there was no evidence the article had caused extensive emotional distress or damage to the comedian's reputation.
The judge also refused to impose any punitive damages--those aimed at punishing and deterring the Star--because Star Editorial Inc. was operating in financial red ink.
In the appeal acted on Monday, lawyers for Dangerfield argued that the judge should have taken into account the financial holdings of Star Editorial's corporate parent, GP Group Inc.
GP Group had not been found liable, and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last June that its net worth could not be a factor.
Dangerfield's appeal to the nation's highest court said the lower courts had allowed "a publishing entity to insulate itself from defamation liability simply by erecting an artificial corporate wall around its impecunious editorial arm."