Local News in Brief : Ex-Hostage Wins Ruling

A former American hostage in Iran won an important pretrial victory Wednesday in his libel action against a newspaper that reported he was under investigation as a possible drug dealer.

"As far as we're concerned, (the ruling is) fantastic," said Alan Rothenberg, a lawyer for Jerry Plotkin, a Sherman Oaks insurance adjuster, who sued the Daily News of Los Angeles for libel in 1981.

Daniel Fogel, a lawyer for the newspaper, said he believes the ruling by Superior Court Judge Christian Markey was wrong but said he has not decided whether to appeal before the scheduled Oct. 3 trial.

Fogel contended that Plotkin should have to prove the paper was guilty of gross irresponsibility and gross negligence, as well as malice. Markey ruled that Plotkin need only prove negligence through a preponderance of evidence, instead of through clear and convincing evidence, a more difficult standard.

Markey earlier ruled that Plotkin should be considered a private citizen, not a public figure as Fogel had argued. As a private citizen, Plotkin will have a lower standard to meet in proving libel.

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