Back on September 7th, CNN host Nancy Grace mercilessly grilled a mother whose two-year old had disappeared, essentially accusing the mother of failing to help find her son. The day after the inquisition, the mother killed herself. Now the family is suing Grace and CNN for wrongful death.
Leaving aside Grace’s contemptible television personality, this poses an interesting legal question in an extremely sad case.
On one side, CNN/Grace will assert that the First Amendment protects them from asking questions, and further, that there was nothing preventing the mother, Melinda Duckett, from telling Grace to go stuff it and walking off the set.
On the other side, the Duckett family claims in their Complaint a fraudulent inducement to appear on the show. They claim the mother was asked to appear so that she could help publicize the kidnapping, but instead, Grace/CNN saw a 21-year old mother as an easy target to cross-examine for the benefit of ratings.
For fraudulent inducement, one needs a contract. The implied contract here would likely have been Ms. Duckett receiving the airtime to tell her story in exchange for CNN getting the interview.
If Ms. Duckett’s ability to negotiate the details of her appearance on Grace’s show were impaired by misrepresentations made to her, then the family could prevail.
Frankly, CNN should have fired Grace immediately. I guess the ratings were more important than a little humanity.