New York Judge Lets DMA Defamation Case Proceed

A U.S. District Court Judge in New York ruled last week that a defamation lawsuit by Ralph Watson, the former Chief Creative Officer at Crispin Porter Bogusky, can proceed against Jane Does allegedly affiliated with Diet Madison Avenue, the movement dedicated to exposing sex harassers in the agency business.

The judge did narrow the case, tossing some of Watson’s charges. 

One of the defendants, described as New York Doe 2, allegedly told CPB that Watson raped her. Watson countered that Doe 2 made the rape claim up in retaliation for his putting her on probation after making inappropriate “advances” toward him.  

Watson was dismissed by the agency in early 2018, after the shop said it probed a number of harassment allegations made against him. 

The veracity of the rape charge itself, the judge ruled, can’t be decided on a motion to dismiss. “The plaintiff has alleged sufficiently that NY Doe 2 made the defamatory statements with constitutional or actual malice.” 



Another Doe defendant sued by Watson, Illinois Doe 1, pleaded that she was just a re-poster and re-tweeter of allegations that others had made against Watson and that claims against her for doing that should be tossed. But the judge —T he Southern District’s John G. Koeltl — ruled that under New York law, someone who republishes a defamatory statement is potentially as liable as the original publisher of the statement.

Thus, he denied her motion to dismiss the defamation charge related to those actions. Koeltl did dismiss other defamation charges made against her by Watson. 

The judge tossed defamation claims against a defendant listed as NY Doe 3. He also tossed some tortious interference and conspiracy charges, but allowed Watson to proceed with a tortious interference charge against NY Doe 2, because her rape charge allegedly led to Watson’s dismissal from CPB.


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