In the early hours of March 4, 1884, a woman called the Maine State Journal to report that her husband had been killed by a bear in the woods.
When the paper called the scene in the nearby woods, the woman said, her husband was dead.
But when the State Journal reporter arrived, she said that she saw her husband’s body, not her husband.
She was later accused of having committed a “stupid mistake.”
Two years later, the family of a woman named Lucy Wilson, a writer for the local newspaper, was finally awarded a $1 million settlement.
The case was never investigated by the Maine Department of Public Safety or the coroner.
It took nearly 50 years for the woman who died that night to receive her $1.5 million.
The woman who called the paper that morning was actually a woman with a mental disability who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia in the late 1970s.
The newspaper had no way of knowing until later that she was mentally ill.
A decade after Lucy Wilson’s death, a group of Maine lawmakers began drafting a bill that would allow her relatives to sue the newspaper for libel and other damages.
“I was so upset that we didn’t do something about it,” said Susan McManus, who had a mental illness herself.
“And that is a pretty good excuse.” “
In the 1980s, Maine lawmakers proposed a similar law that would have allowed family members to sue newspapers for defamation or invasion of privacy, but the bill failed to pass. “
And that is a pretty good excuse.”
In the 1980s, Maine lawmakers proposed a similar law that would have allowed family members to sue newspapers for defamation or invasion of privacy, but the bill failed to pass.
That same year, an appeals court ruled that a former newspaper editor, Thomas P. Murphy, had been wrongfully convicted of libel and slander after he was sued for publishing the following statement about a man who was suspected of killing a woman.
“He was a vicious, cruel killer,” Murphy had written.
“But he was not a vicious murderer.
He was a good man who took a chance and did the right thing by his wife.”
The woman’s family eventually settled with Murphy.
In 2009, the state Supreme Court ruled that Murphy had not been wrongly convicted, but he was ordered to pay the woman $1,000 in damages.
The same year the case was appealed, Murphy was convicted of lying to a grand jury.
In 2015, the Maine Supreme Court again ruled that the newspaper article was defamatory and awarded $4.2 million in damages to the woman’s estate.
“We were never told that there was a case or that there had been a trial,” McManu said.
“When you hear about this case, it’s like someone has just said, ‘Oh, we’re going to take a case like this.
It’s just going to be a trial.'”
The family members of Lucy Wilson still have no idea how they ended up with $1 billion in damages and a court ruling.
“My parents have always wanted to sue,” Mcmanus said.
“‘We were just unlucky enough to have this happen to us.'”
But there’s a difference between a case and a lawsuit.
“You have to have a case to sue, you have to prove something,” McPhee said.
In her ruling, the Supreme Court said that the state’s libel laws did not apply to Wilson’s case because it had not “proved beyond a reasonable doubt” that the words published in the newspaper were “true or false.”
She wrote: “To establish a libel claim against a newspaper, the plaintiff must show that publication of the matter was false, false or misleading, that publication was reckless, or that publication created an unreasonable risk of damage.”
McPee said that was true, but that wasn’t the same as proving beyond a doubt.
“There are certain kinds of claims that are better left to a jury,” McSue said.
McManum said that even though she was the one who called and reported the newspaper’s publication, she believes that the reporter had to have known about her mental illness before calling.
“She had to know she had something going on,” McMenum said.
The family’s lawyer, Robert Bostwick, disagreed.
“This is not a case where the press should be held responsible,” Bostwn said.
He said that, despite the fact that the law requires that publication be “false or misleading,” there is no specific law that requires that the news media prove that a statement made by a journalist is false or not.
“That is not the case here,” he said.
Instead, he said, the law allows the family to pursue an award for actual damages.
In a brief filed in support of the family’s claim, Bostewd argued that the article was “not a libel” and therefore not a “true and proper publication.”
He also argued