Libel damages may be recoverable (in this instance against a news organization) if the injured party is a non-public official; but claimants must demonstrate a reckless lack of professional standards on the part of the organization in examining allegations for reasonable credibility.
In a plurality opinion written by JusticeJohn Marshall Harlan II, the Court held that, while news organizations were protected from liability when printing allegations about public officials under the Supreme Court's New York Times Co. v. Sullivan decision (1964), they may still be liable to public figures if the information they disseminate is recklessly gathered and unchecked. The Court ultimately ruled in favor of Butts, and the Saturday Evening Post was ordered to pay $3.06 million to Butts in damages, an amount which was later reduced on appeal to $460,000. This settlement was seen as a contributing factor in the demise of the venerable Saturday Evening Post and its parent corporation, the Curtis Publishing Company, two years later. Both Butts and Bryant had sued for $10 million each. Bryant settled for $300,000.