Asiana Airlines Suit Against KTVU Is "Spectacularly Inadvisable," Legal Experts Say

Categories: Law & Order, WTF?

asiana-airlines-planning-to-sue-ntsb-and-tv-station-that-aired-racist-pilot-names.jpg
Captain Wi Soo Yoo was reportedly not on the plane
Assuming that its reputation wasn't already ruined after four pilots crashed a Boeing 777 into a seawall, Asiana Airlines has decided to sue local news station KTVU for seriously botching the pilots' names in a way that will certainly go down in media history.

Airline spokesman Ki Won Suh said in an e-mail this morning that the station hadn't just defamed Asiana, but also disparaged Asians in general when it erroneously identified the four pilots of Flight 224 as -- ahem -- Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Bang Ding Ow, and Ho Lee Fuk.

See Also: KTVU Totally Screws Up Asiana Pilots Names.

But the deck seems a bit stacked against Asiana as it gears up to file a lawsuit in the U.S, Court system, where First Amendment protections are strong enough to obviate even the most convincing defamation complaints. In fact, San Francisco-based free speech attorney Joshua Koltun projects that the South Korean airline's chance of success is virtually non-existent.

"They have no chance," Koltun said, upon hearing reports that the company is drafting its complaint in Seoul. "And under the circumstances," he added, "I think it would be spectacularly inadvisable."

To prove its case, Asiana and its lawyers will have to first prove that the fake names were uttered -- and received -- as a sincere statement of fact, and that the station had reported them maliciously. "The first hurtle here is that listeners, within a moment of registering, would recognize that these were not the names of real people -- particularly in light of the apology that immediately followed," Koltun said.

Nor would it be sufficient for Asiana to prove that the person who smuggled those names in had intended them as some kind of racist comment, he continued. That, too, would be protected by the First Amendment. Asiana couldn't even win if it proved that listeners had, indeed, interpreted the names as fact, because there's really no way for the airline to prove that an unsavory joke had done any material damage to its profile.

Spokespeople from KTVU could not be reached for comment, but the station explained, in its second mea culpa on Friday, that it hadn't read the names out loud before an anchor said them on a live broadcast. KTVU fact-checkers had also failed to get the title of the National Transportation Safety Board staffer who confirmed the names -- and who turned out to be a well-intentioned but ill-advised summer intern.

In the end, a short concatenation of complete screw-ups could turn into a long, convoluted saga once this suit proceeds to court. The good news is that it could provide some spectacularly inadvisable entertainment for news viewers out there.




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10 comments
sumiallen
sumiallen

Excuse me.   Where do you people get off?
This can definitely fly as assasination of character, defamation of character.  Boeing should be worried as THREE of their planes had malfunctions last week.  
Some PR firms should also be worried, because as the pilot's union pointed out- the finger pointing and bad mouthing in the press started BEFORE the investigation.
You know, when the little flight attendants were pulling people out of the plane?
But being that Americans on the Carnival Cruiseline SUED when they had the poor migrant crew members holding bags of the passenger feces- THEN they still sued.
If you want to talk about frivolous cases and ugly people. 
I also believe this violates a few discrimination laws.  But regardless, it was beyond tacky.

Hiram Rodriguez
Hiram Rodriguez

This is the kind of ill-logic that got them in this horrible mess to begin with **nods in disappointment**

Lou Kief
Lou Kief

I know we're not supposed to laugh at something like this, but I almost lost it. Bad timing for sure.

Mitch Patel
Mitch Patel

Asiana needs to worry about their own competence and the lives they have impacted through negligence. Give it up on the lawsuit and stop trying distract from the real issues at hand.

Robert la Bohème
Robert la Bohème

My opinion of the airline has plummeted even further. Maybe it's a cultural thing, but here's another one -- FUCK YOU, Asiana, you assholes. Grow up.

sumiallen
sumiallen

@Mitch Patel I think Boeign 777 jets need to worry about hydraulic leaks (Japan Airlines, autothrottles and fires (Ethiopian Airlines). 

sumiallen
sumiallen

@Robert Ruiz WTF? 
You act like they were maliciously trying to hurt people when their crew did more than your mom would to save a bunch of lives. 
So if any Airlines from the western hemisphere fatally crashed- how would it feel if people started commenting about "white trash" "redneck" "cracka'" "gringo"etc.... on the news?
I know a bunch of people who would be ticked.   White people can be touchy.  Black people can be touchy.  About petty things.
Why should the Koreans be any different in a big case? 
People sued the Carnival Cruiselines for worse.  Get a grip.

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