Tiger Woods' Wife Wins Libel Suit Against Publisher
By Gerri Elder
It is a pretty well known fact that any celebrity or person in the public eye will, from time to time, appear in a tabloid rag. And pretty much like professional wrestling, most stories in the tabloids are works of fiction.
It might be argued that the fact that a person has celebrity status, and sought that status, opens them up to the hounding of the paparazzi and perhaps also the crass and even untrue stories that run about them in the tabloid print publications and on the Internet. Some people may claim that this is just a part of being famous, and they should just take it, as if they have given up certain human rights by becoming famous.
However, what about the spouses and children of the celebrities who did not necessarily seek fame and fortune? They are also routinely hounded by paparazzi as well. They never asked for the attention, but either by birth or design, they got it. What about their rights?
Well, the fact is, that celebrities have not given up any legal rights to the press simply by being famous, and neither have their families. Sometimes, it may seem, the press forgets that everyone, no matter how famous, has the right to not have outright lies printed about them.
Tiger Woods is a phenomenal golfer by any standards. His talent in this sport has won him worldwide fame. His wife, Elin Nordegren Woods, may benefit from this fame and fortune, but she has also suffered as a result of it too.
In September, 2006, when Ireland hosted the Ryder Cup, a Irish magazine, The Dubliner, published a defamatory article about Elin Nordegren Woods with a picture of a nude woman, who they claimed was Nordegren Woods. At the golf competition, Tiger Woods was visibly angry about the article. The U.S. golfers lost the competition to Europe.
The story that ran in The Dubliner insulted several of the U.S. golfer's wives, calling them "Ryder Cup filth" and claimed that Nordegren Woods appeared nude on Internet sites across the web. The racy picture that they published was actually of Kimberly Hiott, a model who has posed nude for Playboy Magazine. Nordgren Woods has never posed or been photographed nude.
Although Tiger Woods and his wife say they still love Ireland, they were not willing to simply let the magazine get away with running the false story.
Nordgren Woods filed a personal injury lawsuit for libel against The Dubliner in an Irish court and recently won a settlement of $183,250 as a result of the offensive and damaging story which was printed to cause deliberate personal injury to her. She plans to donate the money to charity in honor of Heather Clarke, the late wife of Irish golfer Darren Clarke. Mrs. Clarke died from cancer before the Ryder Cup.
As a part of the settlement agreement with Nordgren Woods, The Dubliner must publish a lengthy retraction and an apology in its next issue and in other publications as well. If they fail to do this, they will also be ordered to pay Nordgren Woods' legal fees and the settlement amount will increase to $366,500.
In its defense, The Dubliner had claimed that their article was satire and parody of tabloids in general and that they did not directly claim that the picture they published actually was Nordgren Woods. The publisher claims that it was not meant for readers to actually believe the article and they were surprised that it was taken seriously.
The Dublin High Court found that the insinuation was enough, and that the magazine was responsible for libel against Nordgren Woods and will thus have to pay up for their distasteful mistake.