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A defendant in a defamation case may rely upon the accuracy of a report in a reputable French newspaper in forwarding a translation of the article to a third person, a Southern District of New York federal judge has ruled. According to a memorandum and order filed last week by Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, a translation — even if it is not completely literal — is entitled to the same respect as the original article when passed on to a third party. In Fabry v. Meridian VAT Reclaim Inc., 99 Civ. 5149, Judge Buchwald granted summary judgment to the defendant in a case where the plaintiff said that the republication of translated articles from a regional newspaper in northern France could give rise to a libel cause of action in New York court. The articles included coverage of an investigation by French police of Michel Fabry for allegedly retaining tax refunds that were due to clients. The newspaper in which the stories appeared, La Voix du Nord, is published only in French, and the two articles were translated into English by Lifeline Language Services, of Lancaster, England. A letter containing the two translations and three articles in the original French, was sent from the president of a competing American company to 15 clients of Fabry. Both companies engaged in aiding U.S. businesses in recouping value-added tax incurred in European countries. Fabry said he had been defamed by the republication of the stories, which he said were untrue, by the president of Meridian VAT Reclaim Inc. USA, Deborah Ferolito. Meridian USA moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was entitled to rely upon the veracity of the newspaper articles. Judge Buchwald said that Meridian was entitled to a qualified privilege under New York State law because it could reasonably rely on the accuracy of the reports in La Voix du Nord, a reputable newspaper, and did not have a substantial reason to doubt the report. In a transcript of her delivery of her decision from the bench, Judge Buchwald said it did not matter that Ferolito and Meridian USA were sending along translations of the French articles, and that in some respects, the translations were not literal. “[W]e find that there should be no different standard for defendant’s reliance on the work of a reputable translation,” Judge Buchwald said in the transcript. “While plaintiff challenges some aspects of the translation, plaintiff does not make a reputational challenge to the translation service or provide any basis for Meridian to challenge the service’s reputation. Finally, there is no evidence in the record to support an assertion that Meridian deliberately procured a skewed translation.” As for the assertions in the articles, Judge Buchwald concluded that they were passed along by Ferolito, who had no actual knowledge of their alleged falsehood, without any expression of her views on the ultimate truth of any allegation against Fabry. Edward K. Lenci, of Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly in New York, represented Fabry, while Thomas E. Mehrtens, of Downing, Mehrtens & Peck, also in New York, represented Meridian.

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