A $100 million lawsuit claiming that NBC Universal Inc. prompted the suicide of a former Texas prosecutor who was a pedophile suspect is moving ahead after ruling by a U.S. federal judge earlier this week.
U.S. District Judge Denny Chin, while dismissing some causes of action, said certain key claims in the complaint filed by the sister of Louis Conradt, an assistant district attorney, can proceed to trial, according to a 40-page ruling.
Chin let the case go forward on claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of civil rights, saying if the allegations were proven, “a reasonable jury could find that NBC crossed the line from responsible journalism to irresponsible and reckless intrusion into law enforcement.”
“Rather than merely report on law enforcement’s efforts to combat crime, NBC purportedly instigated and then placed itself squarely in the middle of a police operation,” the opinion read, “pushing the police to engage in tactics that were unnecessary and unwise, solely to generate more dramatic footage for a television show.”
A spokeswoman for NBC, which is majority-owned by General Electric Co., said the company will continue to defend itself vigorously.
“We think the evidence will ultimately show that ‘Dateline’ acted responsibly and lawfully,” spokeswoman Jenny Tartikoff said in an e-mailed statement. “The judge’s ruling was based solely on the plaintiff’s version of the facts. For purposes of this motion only, the judge was required, under the law, to accept the plaintiff’s allegations as true.”
Conradt, 56, shot himself in November 2006 after he was confronted at his Terrell, Texas, home by police officers, who were accompanied by an NBC crew that was there to film the arrest for a “To Catch a Predator” segment of NBC’s Dateline program.
His sister, Patricia Conradt, sued the network, saying Dateline was responsible for his death and the harm to his reputation. She grew up in the house where Conradt committed suicide.
NBC had argued that it owed Conradt no duty to protect him from suicide, according to the ruling.
(Reporting by Paritosh Bansal, Editing by Andre Grenon/Richard Chang)
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