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USA: Supreme Court clears way for Suzuki to sue consumer magazine - report

By just-auto.com editorial team | 4 November 2003

The US Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine of a ruling that Suzuki Motor Corp. can proceed to trial with its lawsuit over an article saying the Suzuki Samurai rolled over too easily, Reuters reported.

Without comment, the justices declined to review a US appeals court ruling that a jury should determine whether Consumer Reports rigged tests before giving the SUV a "not acceptable" rating in a 1988 article, the report said.

According to Reuters, the appeals court ruled Suzuki had presented enough evidence in reinstating the lawsuit claiming "product disparagement" and sent the case back for a trial to decide whether the magazine made statements it knew were false.

Reuters noted that a federal judge in California initially dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that Suzuki had not sufficiently supported its claim that the magazine acted maliciously to damage the reputation of the Samurai.

Reuters said Consumers Union, the magazine's publisher, appealed to the Supreme Court and Jim Guest, its president, said the case involved important First Amendment issues about freedom of the press and the right of reviewers to state facts truthfully and express judgments.

Guest reportedly said that if the Supreme Court allowed the appeals court ruling to stand, it would set "a dangerous precedent by allowing disgruntled companies to misuse the judicial system to intimidate and punish their reviewers and critics."

A number of news media companies, the Consumer Federation of America, representing more than 50 million individuals, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety supported the appeal, Reuters noted.