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High Court Refuses TV Station Appeal

October 2, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court today refused to reinstate a $3.5 million damage award a Missouri television station owner won, and then lost, against Capital Cities- ABC Inc.

The court, without comment, let stand a ruling that the station owner, Charles Woods Television Corp., failed to prove fraud by ABC.

A federal jury had awarded the damages on the grounds that Woods was misled into purchasing television station KMTC, a former ABC affiliate in Springfield, Mo. But a federal judge overturned the award in 1988.

KMTC became an ABC affiliate in 1966 under an agreement that was renewed through 1985.

Woods signed a contract in January 1985 to purchase KMTC for $13 million from Midland Television Corp., but the deal was not final.

Woods was told on June 20, 1985, by ABC officials that the network was postponing a decision on whether to retain KMTC as its affiliate. The next month Woods completed the purchase and changed the station’s call letters to KDEB-TV.

The contract also included a provision that the purchase price would be cut by $5 million if ABC ended its affiliation within one year.

ABC terminated KDEB’s affiliation on April 3, 1986, affiliating instead with KSPR-TV in Springfield.

Woods sued the newly merged Capital Cities-ABC corporation for fraud. The suit claimed network executives misled Woods in June 1985 when they voiced uncertainty about the network’s future affiliation with KMTC. Woods said ABC already had decided by then it would end the affiliation.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in March that the federal judge properly overturned the jury’s $3.5 million damage award.

The appeals court said there was ″undisputed evidence″ that ABC had not decided to switch affiliates by June 20, 1986.

Also, the appeals court said, ″No jury could reasonably find that ABC intended the June 20 letter to induce Woods Television to purchase KMTC and make improvements. To the contrary, ABC warned Woods in five letters and in several phone conversations that the network was seriously considering switching the affiliation.″

The case is Woods Television vs. Capital Cities.ABC, 89-64.

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