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Libel Ruling Against Dow Jones Thrown Out

April 09, 1999| Associated Press

A federal judge in Houston threw out a $22.7-million libel ruling against Dow Jones & Co., saying that the plaintiff, a now-defunct Houston investment firm, withheld important evidence in the case. U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein ordered a new trial, finding that MMAR Group Inc. won its favorable verdict in 1997 "through its own misconduct and misrepresentations," preventing the publisher of the Wall Street Journal from presenting a full and fair defense. Two months after the jury verdict, Werlein struck down the $200 million in punitive damages, letting stand actual damages of $22.7 million. In the original verdict, a jury decided that five sentences in an article by Laura Jereski published Oct. 21, 1993, were false and defamatory against MMAR. Lawyers for MMAR blamed the article for the investment firm's demise later that year. Dow Jones argued that the firm collapsed for other reasons and that the disputed sentences were accurate or substantially true. In its latest motion, lawyers for Dow Jones argued that they discovered after the trial that MMAR had withheld audiotapes of conversations among MMAR executives that would have bolstered Dow Jones' claims.

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