In a stunning surprise, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court (the state’s trial level court) on Tuesday threw out Dan Rather’s $70 million lawsuit against CBS Corporation. The case had been heading toward trial before Judge Ira Gammerman when the Appellate Division ruled in favor of an appeal by CBS and dismissed the lawsuit. The decision dismissing the lawsuit found that Rather had no grounds for claiming a contract violation because CBS had continued to pay him.
“This claim attempts to gloss over the fact that Rather continued to be compensated at his normal CBS salary of approximately $6 million a year until June 2006 when the compensation was accelerated upon termination, consistent with his contract,” the appellate decision read.
Rather’s lawyers said they plan to appeal the dismissal. They will now take the case to the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.
“CBS’s position on each claim was upheld, as we have said they would be for the past two years. The court agreed with CBS that none of Mr. Rather’s causes of action state a valid claim,” CBS Corporation said in a statement after the triumph in court. The company said it also expects dismissal of a second lawsuit by Rather against CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves and former CBS News President Andrew Heyward.
Rather’s lawsuits claim that CBS broke his contract and committed fraud by pushing him out of the anchor chair after his involvement in reporting a controversial story in 2004 about then-President George W. Bush’s Vietnam-era service in the National Guard. As soon as the piece aired on “60 Minutes,” numerous observers questioned the authenticity of documents cited in the report. CBS News admitted that the documents could not be authenticated and the network ordered an independent investigation into how the piece got on the air.
The former CBS News anchor claimed that his career had been damaged and he was forced to take a lower paying job at Mark Cuban’s HD Net. The court ruling Tuesday, however, said that was speculative and irrelevant.