Rolling Stone challenges verdict regarding Dean Eramo’s defamation case

After saying it respected the case’s decision, according to Eramo’s lawyer

Dean Nicole Eramo was awarded $3 million a month ago in her defamation case against Rolling Stone due to the magazine’s 2014 publication of the now discredited article “A Rape on Campus.”

On Monday, Rolling Stone urged a federal judge to overturn the verdict, arguing there is no evidence the article’s author Sabrina Rubin Erdely acted with malice. It’s also challenging the jury’s decision that found the magazine’s December 2014 online version of the article – with an editor’s note acknowledging problems with the story – to be a “republishing” of the false statements. Rolling Stone claimed punishing the magazine for trying to warn the public with the editor’s notes could prompt other outlets to stay silent when there are errors in an article in the future.

“If the jury’s verdict is allowed to stand, the severe legal risk of adding a warning editor’s note to a story will force publishers not to make the very disclosures that the law encourages. Such a result is not only at odds with the law, it flies in the face of common sense, public policy and the best interests of an informed public,” argued the attorneys for Rolling Stone.

Eramo’s lawyer Libby Locke said in an email Monday night that Rolling Stone “still doesn’t get it” because Rolling Stone told the jury it heard and respected the verdict in the case, but “the very first thing that Rolling Stone filed after saying those words is a request to set the verdict aside.”

Rolling Stone said to prove the editor’s note version was a “republication” of the false story, Eramo’s attorneys would have had to show that Rolling Stone was actively trying to target a new audience, and the magazine’s attorneys wrote that it “defies logic” that the company would try to recruit a new audience for a story that became a “major black eye” for the publication.

Eramo had to prove that she was defamed by showing the magazine and Erdely acted with malice, and that they knew what they were writing about Eramo was false or entertained serious doubts about its accuracy.

It’s been two years since Rolling Stone’s publication of “A Rape on Campus,” and the magazine is still reaping the consequences. The fraternity involved in the article’s false allegations, Phi Kappa Psi, is also suing Rolling Stone for $25 million in a trial set for late next year.

University of Virginia