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158749; 158755-6 - Bryan Punturo v Brace Kern

Bryan Punturo, Fawn Punturo, and B & A Holdings, LLC, d/b/a Parkshore Resort, LLC,

 

Jonathan Moothart

 

Plaintiffs-Appellees,

 

v

(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)

 

 

(Grand Traverse – Power, T.)

 

Brace Kern,

 

Jonathan Koch

 

Defendant-Appellant,

 

and

 

 

Saburi Boyer and Danielle Kort, f/k/a Danielle Boyer,

 

 

______________________________

Defendants.

 

Bryan Punturo, Fawn Punturo, and B & A Holdings, LLC, d/b/a Parkshore Resort, LLC,

 

Jonathan Moothart

 

Plaintiffs-Appellees,

 

v

 

 

Brace Kern and Saburi Boyer,

 

 

 

Defendants,

 

and

 

 

Danielle Kort, f/k/a Danielle Boyer,

 

Gerald Zelenock

 

Defendant-Appellant.

 

Summary

Brace Kern, an attorney, on behalf of his clients, Saburi Boyer and Danielle Kort, filed a lawsuit alleging that Bryan Punturo engaged in extortion to coerce Boyer to pay him money in exchange for Punturo’s promise not to compete with Boyer’s parasailing business.  Kern also reported the allegations to the Attorney General (AG), who filed a charge of felony extortion against Punturo.  Kern, Boyer, and Kort were interviewed by the media about their lawsuit and the AG’s extortion charge, and they made statements about the matter.  After the civil and criminal cases were dismissed, Punturo and other plaintiffs sued Kern, Boyer, and Kort for defamation.  The trial court, relying on Bedford v Witte, 318 Mich App 60 (2016), concluded that the statements were not privileged under the fair reporting privilege, MCL 600.2911(3), and that questions of fact remained as to other elements of the defamation claim.  Consequently, the trial court denied the parties’ motions for summary disposition.  The Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished opinion.  The Supreme Court has ordered oral argument on the application to address:  (1) whether, as a threshold matter, the fair reporting privilege, MCL 600.2911(3) — which can only be invoked “in a libel action” — applies in a case in which the appellants are not the media companies that published the allegedly defamatory statements, but are instead the persons who furnished the oral statements to the media; (2) whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the appellants’ allegedly defamatory statements to the media regarding the pending litigation were not protected under the fair reporting privilege; (3) whether Bedford v Witte, 318 Mich App 60 (2016), was wrongly decided; and (4) whether the standards for application of the statutory fair reporting privilege are different for statements made by an attorney or by a layperson-litigant.​