In an unpublished per curiam opinion issued today the Court of Appeals (Hood, Meter, Murray) upheld an Oakland County court's summary disposition in favor of Rep. Gary Peters and Democratic Party chair Mark Brewer in a defamation suit brought by Andrew Raczowski, Peters' 2010 Republican challenger. The suit was based on a Democratic Party-sponsored television ad that said that Raczkowski was “being sued by his former business partners for theft, fraud, and conspiracy,” and that he had “bilked his partners out of six million dollars.” Raczkowski sued on the basis that the people who had sued him were not former business partners, and that Peters and Brewer knew the ad was false. The opinion (PDF) concludes:
The sting or gist of the ad was that plaintiff had been sued for defrauding people and companies, with whom he had entered into a contract, out of millions of dollars. That is an accurate portrayal of the allegations contained in the South Dakota lawsuit. The question whether the entities who sued plaintiff were his business partners, his customers, or just companies with whom he had entered into a contractual relationship — like the question whether he bilked or defrauded them — did not affect the ad’s substantial truth. The words that plaintiff argues should have been used would have produced the same effect on the viewers of the ad. Accordingly, the differences in the words used from the actual words in the South Dakota lawsuit were immaterial. Thus, the trial court properly concluded that plaintiff was unable to sustain a defamation claim because he could not establish the falsity of the statements contained in the ad.