A high-profile gaming defamation case has met its end…probably.
In 2012, self-made billionaire Kazuo Okada of Universal Entertainment sued Reuters over alleged casino bribery implications. But last week, Tokyo’s High Court deemed the claim “groundless,” citing accuracy.
Why Did Gaming Company Universal Sue Media Agency Reuters?
Four years ago, a few Reuters’ reporters were sniffing around Universal’s business dealings and stumbled upon, what they thought, was pay dirt: a questionable compensation, to a shadowy consultant with ties to a former Filipino gaming official.
Universal objected. In their opinion, Reuters didn’t connect the dots properly, which, they argued, led to flagrant defamation by implication. A Universal spokesperson explained:
“Their (Reuters) stories contain misrecognition of facts and biases that could have been easily avoided had Reuters engaged in fair and appropriate reporting. Reuters has reported that our corporate group has given the massive sum of US $40 million to the government and other related institutions between December 2009 and May 2010 in our Philippines’ business. This is a clear misrecognition of the facts.
“Reuters’ reporting is full of malice and our company firmly objects to this. We believe that Reuters should be fully held to account legally for the damage brought about through their biased reporting, and we are exploring the possibility of taking legal actions against them.”
Universal asked for $1.8 million in damages, and a round of apologies.
Court In Gaming Defamation Case: Repetitive Details Don’t Amount To Libel
Detailed, but not defamatory; that’s how Tokyo’s High Court ruled.
During proceedings, Universal argued that repetitious mentions of suggestive facts contributed to the overall impression of wrongdoing. But the court disagreed. In the judges’ eyes, the recurrences provided clarity and detail, not shade.
Judge Yoshihiro Toyosawa summed up the decision:
“The claims made in this case by the appellant are groundless and the rejection by the district court was justifiable.”
Would This Gaming Defamation Case Have Turned Out Differently In A U.S. Court?
This gaming defamation case played out in Japan, but someone asked, “Would a U.S. court likely return the same result?” In a word: yes.
For starters, the United States enjoys defendant friendly defamation laws. To win and American slander and libel lawsuit, plaintiffs must meet sky-high proof standards. Claimants must persuade judges and juries that:
- The defendants made false statements of fact about the plaintiffs. And we’re not talking small mistakes; you can’t win a slander or libel lawsuit because someone said you stole $100, when, in fact, you’d only stolen $77.
- The statement caused harm; not just bruised feelings or pangs of embarrassment, but actual, material harm. Plaintiffs can argue that reputation attacks led to job loss, but they must provide concrete evidence directly linking the actual utterance to a termination, business decline, or some other lost employment opportunity.
- The defendants acted negligently, with reckless disregard for the truth, or with actual malice. To put it another way: plaintiffs must prove that the accused didn’t properly fact check. In the case of public figures, the stakes are even higher; politicians and celebrities are required to show that the defendants knowingly lied.