Oprah Settles defamation suit outside court

March 25th, 2010 - 8:42 pm ICT by Pen Men At Work  

March 25, 2010 (Pen Men at Work): A defamation lawsuit filed by a headmistress of Oprah Winfrey’s South African girls’ school has been settled by the talk show host. The lawsuit was filed after Oprah had accused the headmistress of abusing the girls, following the claims of some of the students.

According to former headmistress Nomvuyo Mzamane’s lawsuit, Winfrey made defamatory remarks against her after the 2007 sex-abuse scandal at the school. The headmistress complained that she couldn’t find any jobs after Winfrey commented she had lost confidence in her. A trial was to start in federal court in Philadelphia next week where Winfrey and some schoolgirls would testify. However, on Tuesday, a joint statement released by lawyers for both sides stated that Winfrey and Mzamane had met to resolve their differences.

The statement said that both parties met without their lawyers and that they are happy to settle the dispute peacefully. U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno refused to dismiss the lawsuit because Mzamane had presented enough evidence to go to trial. At the time, Winfrey was visiting her school. Mzamane is currently working for a school in Africa but Winfrey’s spokesperson refused to confirm if they met during Winfrey’s trip. The terms of settlement will not be discussed by the parties. A dorm matron at theOprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls has been accused in South Africa with abusing six students. Winfrey found the allegations crushing as she has had a traumatic history of childhood sexual abuse. The dorm matron, Tiny Virginia Makopo, has pleaded not guilty to 14 charges.

Mzamane claimed to be unaware of the sexual abuse. But according to Winfrey’s lawyers, Mzamane failed to discipline the Makopo in spite of her arguments and clashes with students and fellow staff. Timothy McGowan, one of Mzamane’s lawyers refused to comment more than what was in the joint statement.

Mzamane earlier worked for the private Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia and was then sued two years ago while she was still living there. As Winfrey’s headmistress, she earned $150,000 a year. Winfrey had decided to defend the case on free speech and other grounds. Mzamane’s lawyers pointed out that because of Winfrey’s stand in the media, any remarks passed by her would be believed by the public as true.

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