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Duane Reade v. Clark (Challenging corporation’s attempt to intimidate local critic)

This case involves a defamation suit brought by a corporation in response to criticism in a local newspaper with respect to a community controversy. It also involves the question of whether the use of a defamation suit to chill critical expression should expose the plaintiff who brings the retaliatory defamation suit to damages. Patrick Clark of Rockaway, Queens is an artist who had been chosen to create a memorial in a Rockaway public park for the town’s residents killed in the World Trade Center attack. Next to the park, Duane Reade was building a store with a large, lighted billboard on its roof. On March 23, 2004, Mr. Clark published an opinion piece in a local Rockaway newspaper that criticized the drug-store giant for its planned billboard. Duane Reade sued both Mr. Clark and the newspaper for defamation and tortious interference with ongoing and prospective business relations.

The NYCLU provided counsel to defend Mr. Clark. In addition, the NYCLU sought damages on the grounds that the filing of the suit was a retaliatory SLAPP suit. The Supreme Court dismissed Duane Reade’s defamation claim. In addition, the court held that the case had “no purpose other than intimidation, harassment and punishment,” and ordered Duane Reade to pay punitive damages to both defendants. Following this decision, the parties agreed to settle the case. 

State Supreme Court, New York County, Index No. 107483-03 (direct) 

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