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CAUDLE v. THOMASON

October 3, 1997

CHARLES CAUDLE, Plaintiff,
v.
HARRY THOMASON, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREENE

 This case arises out of a controversy surrounding the White House Travel Office. The matter is before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment. Upon consideration of the motion, plaintiff's opposition, defendant's reply, and the arguments of counsel at a hearing, the Court concludes that the motion should be granted and summary judgment be entered for the defendant.

 I

 Background

 Plaintiff Charles Caudle was the President and Chief Executive Officer of Airline of the Americas, Inc. ("AOA"). AOA, later renamed UltrAir, was a commercial charter air service. It conducted a substantial amount of business for the White House Travel Office, in 1992 alone providing more than $ 2 million of domestic air travel service to the White House Press Corps. Defendant Harry Thomason is part owner of Thomason, Richland, and Martens, Inc. ("TRM"), an aviation consulting firm. According to Caudle, Thomason began a campaign in October 1992 to discredit AOA in order to gain the White House Press Corps charter business for TRM. As a result of these efforts, Caudle claims, AOA lost its business with the White House Travel Office, and Caudle thereupon filed this action against Thomason for libel and slander.

 Plaintiff's libel claim *fn1" is premised exclusively on a memorandum written by Darnell Martens (the "Memorandum"), part owner and President of TRM, and circulated to White House officials by Thomason. *fn2" The Memorandum recounts a conversation with Billy Ray Dale, then Director of the White House Travel Office, in which Martens inquired about TRM bidding for the White House Press charters. According to Martens, Dale stated categorically that the Travel Office would not accept competitive bids for these charters, regardless of the price or the services another company might offer.

 After this conversation Martens began to gather information on AOA and its relationship with the Travel Office which he included in the Memorandum and which he marked "CONFIDENTIAL." *fn3" He concluded that AOA enjoyed an almost exclusive arrangement with respect to providing charter service to the White House Press Corps; that AOA had violated federal election laws; and that it had been investigated by the United States Department of Transportation and the Federal Election Commission. *fn4"

 Martens forwarded Thomason a copy of the Memorandum, which Thomason then gave to Watkins. Thomason maintains that the purpose of this communication was to alert the proper White House officials about the goings on in the Travel Office and to avert any scandal that might erupt over its relationship with AOA.

 Following these meetings, Watkins involved other White House officials about the matter. The Memorandum was eventually leaked to the press, although both parties deny any involvement in the leak.

 Caudle alleges that the Memorandum is libelous per se because, among other things, it contains inaccurate and untrue allegations that both he and AOA engaged in illegal activities. He claims that Thomason is liable for the publication of the Memorandum because he provided it to White House officials. Caudle also alleges that Thomason is responsible for the republication of the Memorandum because he knew or should have known that the Memorandum would be disseminated to the media. He seeks damages in excess of $ 80 million dollars.

 II

 As indicated, Thomason has moved the Court for summary judgment on Caudle's sole remaining libel claim. Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). For purposes of summary judgment, "the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986) (emphasis in original). In determining this, a court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Masson v. New Yorker Magazine, Inc., 501 U.S. 496, 520, 115 L. Ed. 2d 447, 111 S. Ct. 2419 (1991). The non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, ...


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