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UFC’s Cortney Casey can sue the Texas athletic commission for libel but she only has a few weeks left

By Zach Arnold | June 26, 2017

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UFC’s claim that they may not run another show in Texas is a bluff but the anger behind the bluff is significantly real and justified.

An explosive report by Iain Kidd regarding UFC fighter Cortney Casey’s drug test suspension with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation has raised tensions between MMA’s premier promoter and a state with a horribly checkered past regulating combat sports events.

If the allegations in Kidd’s report are verified, Cortney Casey potentially has a libel case worth hundreds of thousands of dollars against the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation for tainting her public reputation.

Here’s the kicker: Texas state libel laws require extremely swift action on Casey’s part in order to prepare for a libel lawsuit.

The intricate steps needed to sue a Texas government agency for libel

If a government agency in Texas libels a person, regardless of public figure status, the person libeled has to request a formal retraction in writing within 90 days of the publication of defamation. The request can be done in e-mail but courts usually want certified US Postal Service delivery with return receipt.

The agency has 30 days to either issue a retraction or 60 days to challenge a retraction request. No response is deemed as a denial.

THE PLAINTIFF MUST REQUEST A RETRACTION OR ELSE A LIBEL SUIT IS IN JEOPARDY.

The person libeled has 180 days (six months) from the time of defamation publication to file a formal government claim with the state agency in question. The claim must include a specific request for damages. Depending on the attorney, some claims are short while others are treated as treatises citing case law in an attempt to read the riot act.

The state agency has a limited period of time after the claim is filed to either deliver a response (a settlement offer, rejection, or no response which is treated by courts as a rejection).

The person libeled has 360 days (1 year) from the time of defamation publication to sue the state agency for libel.

The issues at state in UFC/Cortney Casey vs. Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation

Let’s go to the Iain Kidd article at Bloody Elbow and read the allegations.

This is the kind of behavior that can get a state agency sued for millions of dollars.

What Cortney Casey needs to prove for a libel claim

Here are the elements you have to prove for libel in Texas:

A libel is a defamation expressed in written or other graphic form that tends to blacken the memory of the dead or that tends to injure a living person’s reputation and thereby expose the person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule, or financial injury or to impeach any person’s honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation or to publish the natural defects of anyone and thereby expose the person to public hatred, ridicule, or financial injury.

If the person libeled is any kind of public figure, they must prove actual malice. Cortney Casey would be considered a limited-purpose public figure in this case.

To prove actual malice, the plaintiff would have to show that the defendant knew the information they were disseminating was false or showed reckless disregard (substantial & unjustifiable risk) to the truth of the claims publicly made.

If the allegations laid out in Iain Kidd’s article are true and the evidence is in writing, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation is in big trouble… only if Cortney Casey herself files an immediate retraction request with the Texas DLR because if she doesn’t, she can’t pursue a libel claim against the state of Texas.

What about the Texas anti-SLAPP law?

Texas is one of several states that has an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute that allows a person sued for defamation to file a special Motion to Strike and dismiss parts or all of a legal complaint.

If the defendant filing the anti-SLAPP motion can prove their publication was about “a matter of public concern”, then the burden shifts to the plaintiff to show that they have at least a preponderance of evidence to prevail in court.

Given the presented allegations, an anti-SLAPP motion to strike would likely backfire on the state of Texas and require the state to pay the attorney fees of Cortney Casey. Given those stakes, they would likely file a demurrer (motion to dismiss) to try to show that she can’t meet the elements of libel required. That’s highly unlikely to succeed as well.

Bottom line: If the UFC wants to change the way business is done in Texas, they’ll find it’s cheaper to find and hire a libel attorney for Cortney Casey instead of boycotting the state. They have the resources to pull this off. They should exhaust administrative remedies and pursue a proper conclusion.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

One Response to “UFC’s Cortney Casey can sue the Texas athletic commission for libel but she only has a few weeks left”

  1. [...] ball is in the TDLR’s court to right this wrong. ┬áIt is unknown if Casey will look to litigation to undo the damage her career has taken but given that the TDLR communicated this supposed [...]

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