N.Y. libel verdict tossed out

New York’s top court shot down the largest libel verdict in state history in a ruling that ordered a new trial in a businessman’s lawsuit against a Buffalo TV station.

John Prozeralik of Niagara Falls had been awarded $ 15.5 million by lower courts in a libel suit against Capital Cities Communications Inc., parent company of WKBW-TV in Buffalo.

The TV station, and former radio station WKBW, wrongly identified Prozeralik in several broadcasts on May 7, 1982, as the victim of an abduction and beating tied to organized crime.

But the state Court of Appeals said a state Supreme Court jury received poor instructions from the judge, which tainted its verdict.

Prozeralik did not return a phone call seeking comment. A state Supreme Court jury ruled in his favor in November 1991 and a state appellate court upheld the verdict in February.

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