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Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. Jacobson

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
713 F.2d 262 (7th Cir. 1983)


Facts

Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. (Brown) (plaintiff) is a manufacturer of Viceroy cigarettes. Walter Jacobson (defendant) is a news commentator for WBBM-TV, a Chicago television station owned by CBS (defendant). In 1975, an advertising firm came up with its “Kennan plan” to sell Viceroys to young people by marketing them in the same category as other “vices” such as wine, beer, shaving, “wearing a bra, or purposely not wearing one.” Brown rejected this advertising idea and chose not to pursue the Kennan plan of advertising. Years later, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) conducted a study of cigarette advertising. It issued a report suggesting that Brown adopted the Kennan plan as a strategy to market its cigarettes to young people by advertising them as part of a general hedonistic lifestyle. In 1981, a reporter from WBBM-TV called Brown and said he was putting together a story on cigarette advertising for a news program hosted by Walter Jacobson. When asked to comment on the FTC report, a Brown executive said his company rejected the Kennan plan of advertising. However, the Jacobson news program ran the story and included a summary of the FTC’s report. The result of this was an overall suggestion that Brown marketed its cigarettes to children under the Kennan plan. Brown brought suit against Jacobson and CBS for libel. The trial court issued judgment for Jacobson and CBS, and Brown appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Posner, J.)

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