The libel suit, filed Nov. 23 in Wayne County Circuit Court, accuses the Detroit Newspaper Agency and reporter Fred Girard of defaming and slandering the three-time All Star by reporting that he was “in hiding,” “not in contact with his family,” not supporting his daughter financially, and had an “unstoppable gambling compulsion,” according to the suit.
Fielder’s lawyers said the stories exaggerated the gambling and reported incorrect information.
In a follow up story Oct. 21, Fielder told the News he planned to repay his debts, saying: “I’m going to be a man about it. I’m going to take care of all my responsibilities.”
From the story reported on ESPN, it doesn’t sound as if Fielder is disputing many of the key allegations against him – that he gambled away millions of dollars and had lost his Florida mansion as a result of inability to pay gambling debts – and is instead attacking charges that are harder to pin down, like the extent to which he was “in hiding” or in contact with his family. Those are facts as to which it will be hard to show that the News recklessly disregarded the truth if they relied on what somebody told them or on the fact that they couldn’t find him, and Fielder will have a tough time proving $25 million in damages if the thrust of the story – massive gambling debts, loss of his house – is true.