Judge dismisses Patrick Reed's $750M defamation lawsuits

A federal judge in Florida on Wednesday dismissed LIV Golf League player Patrick Reed's $750 million defamation lawsuits against the Golf Channel, several of its commentators and other golf writers and media outlets.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy J. Corrigan of the Middle District of Florida in Jacksonville wrote in a 78-page ruling that Reed's complaints in both lawsuits fell short of alleging sufficient facts showing the defendants had actual malice when making comments about him, "which is fatal to each defamation claim."

"His Amended Complaints reference over 50 different allegedly defamatory statements," Corrigan wrote. "However, many of the statements are not about Reed. Some statements are about LIV Golf, of which Reed is a member, but not specifically about Reed. Others are matters of opinion or permissible rhetorical hyperbole. Still others are statements of fact, the truth of which are not challenged.

"And Reed does not meet the required pleading of actual malice to hold the press liable for defamation. While Reed may be frustrated at the negative media coverage he receives (some of which seems over the top), under Florida law and the First Amendment, Reed fails to bring actionable defamation claims and his cases therefore must be dismissed."

Corrigan wrote that he would wait to rule whether the defendants, which included the Gannett Co., The Associated Press and Fox Sports, would be entitled to recover attorney's fees and court costs from Reed.

Reed initially filed his federal case during the height of the PGA Tour-LIV Golf feud in Texas in August 2022. He refiled the case in Florida about a month later. The lawsuits accused numerous defendants of conspiracy, defamation, injurious falsehood and tortious interference.

The complaints alleged the defendants were co-conspirators for their "anticompetitive conduct and anticompetitive practices in order to destroy the upstart LIV Golf Tour, Mr. Reed, and fellow LIV Golf players in order to annihilate any competition with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour," according to a news release from Reed's attorney, Larry Klayman.

The news release said the defendants labeled Reed a "cheater, liar, a thief, a murderer and someone who accepts blood money from terrorists."

Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, resigned from the PGA Tour, which has suspended its members for competing in LIV Golf tournaments without conflicting-event releases. Reed, a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour, earned more than $37 million during his tour career.