Major Media Are Sued By Seema Kalia After She Claims That Her Child's Private School Is Involved In Tax Fraud
Seema Kalia, a mom to two children, found evidence of tax fraud when her daughter attended one of New York City's elite private schools, Trinity. Seema asked questions, got no answers from Trinity, and then was libelled by The Daily Beast, Village Voice and Gawker as someone making false claims against Trinity Trustees, most of whom have political and social connections to the editors and publishers of the major media that want Ms. Kalia to look bad for making the allegations.
Daily Beast, Others Face $5M Defamation Suit From Prep Mom
By Scott Flaherty, law360.com
Law360, New York (April 13, 2012, 4:39 PM ET) -- Newsweek Daily Beast Co. LLC and three other media companies were hit Wednesday with a $5 million suit by a woman who says the outlets printed articles falsely stating she had no evidence to back tax fraud allegations she publicly leveled against an elite Manhattan school.
Seema Kalia, whose daughter was a second-grader at the Trinity School in Manhattan last year, has sued for defamation in New York state court. Kalia sparked a controversy in 2011 when she posted on her Twitter and Facebook pages that the Trinity School had hired a phony psychologist and that the trustees of the exclusive school were committing tax fraud.
A Daily Beast reporter, Nick Summers, subsequently published an article on April 14, 2011, that questioned Kalia's claims, saying she had forked over no substantial evidence to back them and that many in the close-knit world of New York private schools seriously doubted their accuracy.
Kalia says, however, that she does have evidence, in the form of U.S. Internal Revenue Service documents, to back her tax fraud claims against Trinity, and is now suing several media outlets — Gawker Media LLC, Atlantic Media Co. and Village Voice Media LLC, which all picked up the story and allegedly reprinted information from the Daily Beast article — for purposely printing false information, according to the suit.
“[The news outlets] published an article ... that falsely stated, among other things, that plaintiff had no evidence to support the statements she was making about financial improprieties at the Trinity School,” the suit said.
A spokesman for the Daily Beast, Andrew Kirk, said in a statement that the company does not comment on pending lawsuits.
"The Newsweek Daily Beast Company does not make comment on legal matters or threats of lawsuits," said Kirk.
Kalia told Law360 Friday that she is really just looking for an apology from the outlets, the school, and the school's trustees, all listed as defendants in the suit, but felt she needed to file the suit to clear her name and restore her reputation.
“Until it's cleared up, I can't go back to work,” said Kalia, who formerly hosted a public affairs television show on a local PBS station. “I really didn't want it to get to this place.”
She added that she was rebuffed when she sent reporter Summers the IRS documents that show the alleged fraud and made several attempts to meet with him prior to the article's publication.
“The arrogance of these outlets not to open the tax documents was shocking,” she said.
Gawker's chief operating officer, Gaby Darbyshire, told Law360 Friday that the online media outlet has seen the suit and, if it moves forward, will contest Kalia's allegations in court.
“Her claims lack any merit,” Darbyshire said. “If she proceeds with the suit we'll defend it rigorously.”
Representatives for Atlantic Media and the Village Voice did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The individual trustee defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.
A spokesman for Trinity, Kevin Ramsey, said the school had not yet seen the lawsuit, and declined to comment.
Kalia, who holds a law degree, filed the summons on behalf of herself, but said she has secured outside counsel that she will reveal before the suit goes to trial.
Counsel information for the defendants was not immediately available.
The case is Seema Kalia v. The Newsweek/Daily Beast Co. LLC et al., case number 102422-1210, in the Supreme Court for the State of New York, County of New York.
--Editing by Cara Salvatore.
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