Dateline fights back after jury compensates trucker

Lawyers for Dateline NBC have begun the appellate process for the judgment won by an East Holden, ME trucker and his employer against the television news program July 8.

After being denied requests for a new trial and a reduction in the award, Dateline has reportedly chosen to take the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston.

Trucker Peter Kennedy, who drives for Classic Carriers of Waterville, was the focus of a Dateline NBC segment about tired truckers that aired in April, 1995.

Kennedy and his boss, Ray Vielleux say they were originally approached by NBC to do a story casting a positive light on the trucking industry. The show, however, proved to be much to the contrary.

The jury decided that the information Kennedy presented to NBC was completely different from the information Dateline aired in 1995. The result was a segment that portrayed truckers as dangerous drivers.

Kennedy, Vielleux and his wife were awarded a total of $525,000 for defamation, emotional distress, and negligent and fraudulent damages.

Arguments for Dateline's appeal could begin as early as December. Three things can happen when the appeals court considers the case. The court may confirm the original verdict, reverse the verdict, or order a new trial. William Robitzek, attorney for Kennedy and Vielleus, told Land Line, "I think we have a good chance that the original verdict will stand." LL