A federal judge in Kentucky has reopened the $250 million defamation lawsuit against the Washington Post filed by Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann, allowing the suit to partially move forward.
After striking down the case in July, U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsman on Monday said "justice requires" additional review on three instances of potential libel against Sandmann. The student's lawyers claimed the Post made 33 libelous claims.
Each of the three statements are related to claims that Sandmann blocked or impeded Nathan Phillips, the Washington Times reported. Philips is the Native American man whom the mainstream media accused Sandmann and his classmates of taunting near the steps of the Lincoln Monument.
The Court will adhere to its previous rulings as they pertain to these statements except Statements 10, 11, and 33, to the extent that these three statements state that plaintiff "blocked" Nathan Phillips and "would not allow him to retreat."
Suffice to say that the Court has given this matter careful review and concludes that "justice requires" that discovery be had regarding these statements and their context. The Court will then consider them anew on summary judgment.
The ruling allows the case to enter the "discovery" phase of the lawsuit, permitting Sandmann's attorneys to seek internal documents and other evidence from the Post that they believe helps their case.
The ruling comes after Sandmann's attorneys submitted a new complaint that "alleges in greater detail than the original complaint that Phillips deliberately lied concerning the events at issue, and that he had an unsavory reputation which, but for the defendant's negligence or malice, would have alerted defendant to this fact," Bertelsman said.
Todd McMurtry, who is representing Sandmann alongside L. Lin Wood, called the ruling a "huge victory."
"The Sandmann family and our legal team are grateful that Judge Bertelsman has allowed the case to proceed. The Court's ruling preserves the heart of the Nicholas Sandmann's claims. We can consider this a huge victory and look forward to initiating discovery against the Washington Post," McMurtry told the Times.
Bertelsman tossed Sandmann's initial lawsuit in July, arguing the Post was acting within its First Amendment rights when it published Philips' account of what happened, even if it was demonstrably false.