Oprah Winfrey has become one of the world’s biggest and richest celebrities based on the power of her words and personality. That power has now landed her in hot water.
As has been well-documented, Oprah founded OWLAG, a South African boarding school for impoverished children. She hired Lerato Nomvuyo Mzamane, a Lesothon by birth, who worked at a prestigious Philadelphia school, to effectively operate the academy.
Shortly after OWLAG opened, allegations of abuse/misconduct by staff members surfaced. When the allegations of misconduct went public, Oprah placed Mzamane on leave. Oprah also held a press conference in which she conveyed her disappointment in the persons she had appointed to run OWLAGI. Mzamane never returned to the school.
Unsurprisingly, Mzamane has now found it difficult to find a job back in the US. So, she did what any good American would do — she filed a lawsuit alleging defamation and other tortious acts by Oprah. The lawsuit was filed in USDC in Philadelphia.
At the close of discovery, Oprah moved for summary judgment. In a 126 page decision that includes a lengthy conflict of law analysis, Judge Robreno denied Oprah’s motion and held that there were questions of fact that only a jury could decide.
The trial is now set to begin on March 29. We shall see if Oprah’s words again carry the day.
EDITOR’S 3/22/10 NOTE — The case has just settled. http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_WINFREY_DEFAMATION_SUIT?SITE=KYWAM&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
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