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Firm Wasn't Defamed in TV Report, Judge Rules

May 08, 1999

VAN NUYS — Complaints by a Van Nuys finance company that it was defamed by a public interest law firm and a Los Angeles TV station in a sweeps period undercover report on home repair rip-offs were rejected Friday by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge.

A $1-million lawsuit by DFS Financial Services against the Bet Tzedek Legal Foundation and KTTV Channel 11 was dismissed by Judge Ernest M. Hiroshige.

The finance company had alleged that the Fairfax district law office assisted the television station in preparing a two-part November sweeps "Fox Undercover" news report that falsely suggested it illegally peddled home improvement loans and tricked elderly homeowners into signing mortgages.

But Hiroshige said DFS failed to show that the report was not substantially true or that it contained more than minor inaccuracies.

The TV report included interviews with senior citizens who said they did not realize that they were mortgaging their homes to pay for repair work. Some complained that they were steered into signing for loan payments they could not afford.

DFS officials contended that the reports were full of errors and were false. They said business dropped off sharply after the report was televised.

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