Chris Cuomo might be gone from ABC News, but he may have left them with a huge bill to pay.
Cuomo is sitting at CNN, waiting for Jeff Zucker to find him a co-anchor for the new morning show.
But in a courtroom in California, ABC is being sued for a story that Cuomo did for 20/20.
The Hollywood Reporter writes that Cuomo could cost his former network in a libel lawsuit over a 2011 20/20 report on the dangers of online dating.
On Tuesday, a California judge rejected a motion by the network to dismiss a libel claim brought by David Williams, who was presented on the newsmagazine as a dangerous Internet predator who lured a "multitude" of women into romantic relationships to "prey" on them financially.
In dismissing ABC's motion to strike the claims based on its First Amendment speech rights, Judge Franz Miller determined that Williams was likely to win the case and ruled that the plaintiff has adequately demonstrated that ABC was negligent in failing to use reasonable care to determine the truth or falsity of statements before the episode in question aired. The case now proceeds toward trial or an appeal by ABC.
An ABC spokesperson tells THR, "We respectfully disagree with the ruling and are exploring our legal options going forward.”
According to the lawsuit (read it here), which was filed in July in California's Orange County Superior Court, Williams met a woman named Kelley Cahill online in early 2005, and they had a romantic relationship. The affair ended May 2006 after Williams allegedly found Cahill in bed with another man but not before they purchased a property together in Cahill's name.
In January 2010, Williams was contacted by the Dr. Phil show and confronted with Cahill's accusation that he defrauded her out of $1.5 million. Williams denied the charge and told the producer she should check Cahill's bankruptcy filing, the foreclosure proceedings on the house and financial records like their joint checking account. Dr. Phil never broadcast Cahill's allegations.
The lawsuit says Cahill then contacted other TV shows about her story and found interest from 20/20 and Cuomo.
Before the show aired, the lawsuit alleges that Cuomo talked with Williams, who repeated what he had told the Dr. Phil producer. Five months after their initial conversation, Cuomo contacted Williams again and stated that ABC was going to air Cahill's story. Williams was asked whether he wanted to go on the record with a response, and after Williams said he needed to gather advice, Cuomo allegedly said there was no time. Williams then threatened to pursue legal remedies.
The segment entitled "Blinded by Love: Kelley Cahill's Ordeal" aired June 24, 2011, and Williams then sued ABC, Cuomo, 20/20 editor Jack Pyle and Cahill.