Rolling Stone Settles Libel Lawsuit with University of Virginia Dean

Magazine still faces another defamation suit filed by fraternity

Jann Wenner (Charles Eshelman/Getty Images)
Charles Eshelman/Getty Images

Rolling Stone has settled a defamation lawsuit filed by a University of Virginia associate dean over its discredited 2014 story alleging a fraternity gang rape.

The magazine said it reached an “amicable resolution” of the defamation lawsuit filed by Nicole Eramo, the former associate dean, the Washington Post reported.

The terms of the settlement are confidential. Rolling Stone lost at trial last year, and the jury ordered the magazine to pay Eramo $1 million in damages, and ordered the author of the story to pay $2 million.

“We are delighted that this dispute is now behind us, as it allows Nicole to move on and focus on doing what she does best, which is supporting victims of sexual assault,” Eramo’s lawyer, Libby Locke, said in a written statement.

Rolling Stone’s 2014 story, “A Rape on Campus,” described how a young woman named Jackie was gang-raped by seven men during a party at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity on campus.

But after a police investigation, a report by the Columbia University School of Journalism, and an investigation by the Washington Post debunked much of the article, Rolling Stone published an online note attached to the story saying it had lost confidence in the woman’s account.

The jury found the magazine’s note was publication with actual malice, or knowing falsity, because the magazine disavowed the story without removing it from the magazine’s website. The magazine later retracted the entire article.

The article suggested Eramo was indifferent to allegations of campus rape. Eramo testified that was false, and that as a result of the story, she faced hundreds of threatening emails and lost her title as associate dean. She also suggested that her breast cancer diagnosis worsened after the article was published, the Post reported.

Rolling Stone is still facing a second defamation lawsuit by the local branch of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia. A Virginia judge recently denied the magazine’s attempt to throw out the $25 million lawsuit filed by the fraternity.

Rolling Stone won the dismissal last year of a third defamation lawsuit filed by three former members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia. The three men claimed the article implied they were involved in the sexual assault.

U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel in Manhattan dismissed the case on the grounds that the three former members failed to show that they were named in the article.