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Part of Rather's lawsuit rejected

A judge allows to go forward a claim that CBS broke its contract.

April 11, 2008|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — A New York state Supreme Court judge Thursday tossed out part of Dan Rather's $70-million lawsuit against CBS, dismissing his claims that the network committed fraud and damaged the longtime anchor's ability to seek new work.

But Justice Ira Gammerman denied CBS' request to dismiss the entire case, allowing Rather to pursue his claim that CBS broke the terms of his contract by sidelining him after he stepped down from the anchor chair.

In his ruling, the judge threw out four of the claim's seven causes of action, including those that specifically named Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves and former CBS News President Andrew Heyward as defendants.

"We're obviously very pleased," said James Quinn, CBS' attorney. "We've said from the beginning that CBS did everything appropriately and paid Mr. Rather every nickel he was owed. It's kind of like a grudge match he couldn't let go."

But Martin Gold, Rather's lead attorney, cast the ruling by the Supreme Court, which is a state trial court, as a victory for the former anchor.

"Although not every legal theory of the case survives, as a result of the decision, the court has permitted discovery and a trial of all of the factual issues that form the basis of Mr. Rather's lawsuit," Gold said in a statement.

"The essence of the case survives," Gold added in an interview. "This was a defeat for CBS."

Rather sued his former employer in September, alleging that the network sought to use him as a scapegoat for a controversial story that claimed President Bush received preferential treatment during his Vietnam War-era service with the Texas Air National Guard. The piece, which Rather reported on the weekday edition of "60 Minutes," was found to be based on documents that could not be authenticated.

In the ensuing furor, Rather said, CBS sought to minimize his role at the network. The newsman claimed that after he stepped down from "CBS Evening News" in March 2005, he was sidelined and denied the support staff and airtime his contract guaranteed. His requests to cover Iraq and Afghanistan were shot down.

Along with Rather's breach of contract claim, the judge also allowed his claim that CBS breached its fiduciary duty in its dealings with him to go forward, which Gold called "a major victory for us."

However, Quinn called what remained of the suit "a garden-variety contract dispute."

"At the end of discovery, it's our intention to move to get rid of the rest of the case," he added.

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matea.gold@latimes.com

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