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Steve Wynn’s Libel Suit Advances as Bloom Law Firm Appeal Denied

May 4, 2021, 3:22 PM

Lisa Bloom and her law firm will have to look to the U.S. Supreme Court if they hope to escape a defamation lawsuit by ex-Wynn Resorts Ltd. CEO Steve Wynn over a press release they issued accusing him of ordering female employees to present themselves in a more sexually appealing way after the Ninth Circuit declined to take a second look at the case.

A three-judge appeals panel ruled March 25 that Wynn can go forward with the suit, and Bloom and the Bloom Law Firm April 8 asked the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to rehear the case, arguing the panel created a new malice standard for libel.

But the appeals court Monday denied their petition for rehearing en banc.

The three-judge panel said the press release seemingly suggested Wynn instructed that female performers in the resort’s ShowStoppers productions “strip down to bras and panties, put on heels, and apply extra makeup so as to be sexually appealing” to him and that one woman was retaliated against for refusing to comply with those instructions.

He may be able to convince a jury that Bloom and the firm decided to publish it despite “learning that none of the witnesses could confirm that Wynn played any role in giving the instructions and without considering alternative explanations or investigating further,” the panel said.

Wynn’s suit labels the press release “a public relations ploy” meant to pressure him into paying money on “a bogus claim of sexual harassment and retaliation.”

The March 2018 press release was issued in the wake of published reports that Wynn engaged in a decade-long pattern of sexual misconduct that led to him relinquishing his role as CEO and Wynn Resorts being fined $20 million by Nevada gaming regulators.

Bloom and her firm argued in seeking en banc review that the panel’s decision created a new test for assessing the “actual malice” needed to prove libel by requiring the publisher of a statement to both “second-guess the factual accuracy of a witness’s statements,” without having any reason to do so, and “to doubt the subjective beliefs of the witness.”

That standard conflicts with Supreme Court precedent and opened a split with other federal appeals court, Bloom and the firm said.

Randazza Legal Group PLLC represented Bloom and her firm. Peterson Baker PLLC and Pisanelli Bice PLLC represented Wynn.

The case is Wynn v. Bloom, 9th Cir., No. 20-15388, rehearing en banc denied 5/3/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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