MRR Lexington Obtains Big Win in Reversal of Defamation Verdict




Congrats to MRR Lexington’s Barry Miller, Chrissy Vessels and Tia Combs  for obtaining a reversal of a defamation verdict rendered against its client, R.J. Palmer, stemming from an advertisement Mr. Palmer used in a race for a Kentucky Senate seat.

Case Summary: The opponent, Dr. Ralph Alvarado, had been a vocal critic of legislation in Kentucky intended to limit the prescription of certain narcotic painkillers. Mr. Palmer’s consultant created an advertisement using footage from a court hearing involving a patient of Dr. Alvarado’s, who was in possession of narcotics. The judge in the hearing “clearly expressed her displeasure with Dr. Alvarado,” according to the opinion.

Dr. Alvarado argued at trial that the consultant spliced the courtroom video, presenting certain statements out of order. The Court of Appeals held that the ad still accurately stated the gist of the judge’s remarks. Because the gist was accurate, and because the ad was protected political speech, the Court of Appeals reversed a unanimous jury verdict. It quoted a Kentucky Supreme Court case, holding that “unfettered political discussion is a necessary and fundamental principle of our constitutional system of government, assuring that political decisions will be made through persuasion rather than power.” It also found that the political context of the ad was important. Those who enter politics must understand that “politics ain’t bean-bag,” wrote it, quoting a renowned newspaper columnist.

MRR is proud to have assisted its client in upholding this fundamental principle of constitutional government.