Cohen v. Cowles Media Company Case Brief

Summary of Cohen v. Cowles Media Company
479 N.W.2d 387 (Minn. 1992)

Facts: The plaintiff was an associate of a gubernatorial candidate and he gave some info about the arrest of an opposing candidate for lieutenant governor to the reporters with the condition that his name will be kept secret. The reporters promised to keep his name secret but then the editors overruled and his identity was revealed. As a result, plaintiff was fired from his job.

Procedure: The jury awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages to the plaintiff. The Supreme Court of Minnesota reversed.

Issue: Can the defendant’s promise be enforced under d90?

Holding: Yes

Rationale: According to the court: “…the test is not whether the promise should be enforced to do justice, but whether enforcement is required to prevent an injustice." The reporters testified that it was unfair on the part of the editors to reveal plaintiff’s name in the article. In the common practice of news media, the promises of confidentiality are performed. So the only way injustice can be avoided is to hold the defendants liable for the damages that were rendered to the plaintiff due to the broken promise.

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