by Michael Rigby
A jury has awarded $3.7 million in damages to an Oklahoma man who was falsely labeled a sexual predator after NewsOK.com, a Web site operated jointly by The Daily Oklahoman and Oklahoma City television station KWTV, listed his home address as the residence of a known pedophile.
The award, returned by a Creek County jury on September 18, 2003, consists of $200,000 in actual damages and $3.5 million in punitive damages against defendants Oklahoma Publishing Co. (publisher of The Daily Oklahoman), Griffin Television OKC (owner of KWTV), and NewsOK LLC.
Patrick Stewart, an ordained minister who has apparently never been convicted of a crime, learned from his 11-year-old daughter that his neighbors thought he was a sexual predator. Upon returning home from school noticeably distraught, the girl told Stewart that a classmate had declined to attend her birthday slumber party because a pedophile apparently lived at her house, said a statement released from the office of Stewart's Tulsa attorney, Doug Stall.
Stewart, 46, relocated to Collinsville, Oklahoma in May 2001. An area resident later learned from NewsOk.com that a sex offender supposedly lived at Stewart's address. In February 2002 she made fliers containing this information and distributed them to other area residents, said Stall.
Robert Nelon, attorney for the defendants, said that NewsOK.com had received the sex offender database via e-mail from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. The database wrongly listed Ron Wesley Lyon, a convicted pedophile, as living at Stewart's address.
Stewart's attorneys contended that his reputation was ruined and that he feared the misidentification would lead to violence against him or his family.
"They had no idea who did or did not believe they were sex offenders," said Stall. "You can understand, as well as I can, it would not be a pleasant experience to wonder who in your neighborhood is a sex offender."
Stewart was represented by Douglas E. Stall of the Tulsa, Oklahoma firm Latham, Stall, Wagner, Steele & Lehman; and Steven E. Chlouber of the Tulsa firm Fuller, Chlouber & Frizzell. See: Stewart v. The Oklahoma Publishing Co., Case No. CJ-02-00490 (Creek Co., Okla., Dist. Ct.).
Source: Tulsa World, The National Law Journal
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Related legal case
Stewart v. The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
|Cite||Creek Co. Dist. Ct., Case No. CJ-02-00490|
|Level||State Trial Court|