Southern California plaintiffs’ lawyer Mark Geragos sued the Los Angeles Times, alleging the newspaper defamed him in a series of stories over a $17.5 million settlement for Armenian genocide insurance cases.
The lawsuit filed against the Times and three reporters comes one year after the newspaper ran stories that Geragos alleges defamed him and painted him in a false light. Geragos and Brian Kabateck were two of the lawyers involved in groundbreaking cases that allowed Armenians to recover insurance payments for the deaths of their family members killed in a genocide that ravaged their country more than a century ago.
The newspaper on March 23, 2022, reported that corrupt acts spoiled the reparations process by diverting funds to outsiders.
“Then, after manufacturing allegations against Mr. Geragos and pressuring the State Bar of California to launch a public investigation of the long-closed matter, the LAT relied on this very investigation to repeatedly defame Mr. Geragos in subsequent articles, claiming that its continued defamation of him was protected by the fair report privilege,” the lawsuit said.
“The totality of the circumstances, including the repeated defamation and portrayal of Mr. Geragos in a false light, in the face of credible evidence disproving the narrative advanced by the LAT, demonstrates Defendants’ malice towards him,” according to the complaint.
The newspaper Friday declined to comment on the filing.
The stories on the lawsuit against AXA SA, a French insurance company, were “based on unreliable information from witnesses whose veracity should have been questioned,” the lawsuit said. “Moreover, the LAT ignored the information and evidence provided by Mr. Geragos’ offices and published the story they had already written in complete disregard for the truth.”
The California State Bar last September announced it was investigating Geragos and Kabateck over the insurance settlement dispersals. The bar, in announcing the ethics probe, thanked the newspaper “for its excellent reporting on the distribution of Armenian Genocide settlement funds.” The bar further stressed that the announcement isn’t “an indication of any misconduct by the attorneys being investigated.”
“Once we did a public records request of the state bar and saw that what I had previously thought was bad journalism by the LA Times had crossed the line to malicious, we had to do it,” Geragos said Friday. “And I’m confident that the discovery and litigation is going to show that they not only had an agenda, but one that was motivated by malice.”
A bar representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the status of the investigation.
Geragos and Kabateck uncovered the theft of settlement funds by co-class counsel, who the pair sued to recoup the funds and ensure amends were made, the lawsuit said.
The complaint alleges state claims of libel, false light invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Geragos is represented by Geragos & Geragos APC.
The case is Geragos v. Los Angeles Times Communications LLC, Cal. Super. Ct., No. 23STCV06397, case management notice filed 3/23/23.
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