National Equirer Seeks Dismissal of Lawsuit Filed by Natalee Holloway’s Mother

July 15, 2013

The National Enquirer has asked a federal magistrate judge in Birmingham to dismiss alawsuit filed last year against the tabloid by the mother of Natalee Holloway, the Mountain Brook teen whose disappearance on a 2005 trip to Aruba triggered international headlines.

Attorneys for the National Enquirer declined comment regarding the lawsuit, or their quest to have it tossed out, after a case status conference with U.S. Magistrate Judge T. Michael Putnam this morning in the judge’s office at the Hugo L. Black U.S. Courthouse in Birmingham.

Lin Wood, an attorney for Beth Holloway who participated in the conference by telephone, stated in an email later that Putnam is expected to issue an order addressing the their right to limited discovery in the case before responding to the recent motion for summary judgment filed by the National Enquirer.

Putnam on May 22 dismissed the invasion of privacy claims against the National Enquirer in Holloway’s lawsuit but denied dismissal of the remainder of the lawsuit for the tort of outrage and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Attorneys for the tabloid and its parent company, American Media, on July 8 filed a 56-page motion seeking summary judgment to dismiss the remainder of the lawsuit based on a number of grounds.

Beth Holloway filed the lawsuit on June 20, 2012 claiming the National Enquirer had published false and horrific headlines, statements, photographs and articles regarding the search for Natalee Holloway. The lawsuit seeks damages for three publications, on June 28, 2010, December 6, 2010, and April 25, 2011, which purport to describe treatment of Natalee Holloway’s corpse.

“Defendants’ conduct in publishing these false statements and accompanying manufactured photographs has been so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and is to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” according to Beth Holloway’s lawsuit.

Natalee Holloway was one of about 120 students from Mountain Brook High School who took a senior class graduation trip to the island of Aruba in May 2005. The students began their trip on May 26, 2005, and were scheduled to return to the United States on May 30, 2005. At about 1:30 a.m. on May 30, 2005, Natalee was last seen entering a car with Joran van der Sloot, Deepak Kalpoe, and Satish Kalpoe.

Natalee Holloway’s disappearance created an “international media frenzy,” much of it focused on suspect Joran van der Sloot, who is now in prison in Peru for his conviction for the murder of a woman in 2010.

The National Enquirer’s motion last week to dismiss states that Beth Holloway “spoke frequently, and in detail, through scores of media outlets about the circumstances of Natalee’s likely death at the hands of Joran Van der Sloot, the multiple, widely circulated theories about the whereabouts of her body, and developments in the investigation.”

“Indeed, Ms. Holloway ultimately became something of an authority on the fate of other missing children, starring in an internationally distributed cable television series, “Vanished with Beth Holloway”, in which she reported in detail, often through re-enactments, on the disappearance and possible death of other children,” the National Enquirer’s motion states.

The motion for summary judgment states that “given the undisputed context in which AMI’s publications actually occurred, no reasonable jury could find that they constitute the kind of extreme conduct encompassed by the sharply limited tort of outrage recognized under Alabama law.”

In June attorneys for America Media and the National Enquirer also had responded to Beth Holloway’s lawsuit, denying Holloway’s claims and stating that they are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and similar provisions under Alabama’s Constitution.

American Median also claims its publications are privileged under common law and that Holloway cannot sustain her burden of proving that defendants’ publications were made with actual or ill will malice.

“Plaintiff cannot sustain her burden of proving that defendants’ publications are false,” American Media states in its response. The company also states that the publications are not subject to legal actions because they address “a newsworthy matter of public concern,” or that they sought to harm Beth Holloway.

Holloway also can’t sustain her burden of proving that their publications were made with the requisite degree of fault required to support the alleged causes of action or that she has suffered any, American Media states.