Judge Rules Oprah Winfrey Can Be Sued for Defamation

The court papers also quote Winfrey as saying "my mistake was trusting people, putting them in power, and allowing them to rule without me having daily contact to see what was going on."

"Winfrey's characterization of her decision to delegate authority with respect to the students as a 'mistake' implies the existence of undisclosed facts unearthed during the internal investigation which indicated that the people put in 'power,' i.e., plaintiff, were engaged in wrongdoing," Robreno wrote.

"Winfrey indicted Ms. Mzamane for creating an atmosphere where the students' voices were silenced," Mzamane's lawyers, including Timothy McGowan, said in their brief. "Simply put, the only reasonable inference to be drawn from the press conference was that Ms. Mzamane was let go because, at best, she disregarded claims of sexual abuse at [the school]."

Winfrey's lawyers tried to have the suit dismissed on the grounds that the comments she made were only her opinions. They also tried to move the trial to Chicago, where her show is based. Robreno said it could be tried in Pennsylvania, where Mzamane lived when she filed suit in 2008. Mzamane is seeking more than $250,000 in damages.

"Oprah and Harpo await the opportunity to present the case in court," her lawyer, Chip Babcock of Houston, said in a statement issued this week through Harpo, Winfrey's production company, which is also a defendant in the suit.

Babcock successfully defended Winfrey during her 1998 libel trial in Texas after she was sued over a segment on mad cow disease.

Although the case has been allowed to proceed, Abrams said Mzamane has no easy task ahead of her, but not simply because she is facing off against Winfrey.

"It's true that libel law in America is generally protective of free speech. Plaintiffs have a difficult task in prevailing but not an impossible one," he said.

Winfrey's fame and the media storm the trial will bring aside, Abrams is confident both parties will get a fair trial.

"I think she [Winfrey] can get a fair trial, and I think the plaintiff can get a fair trial even if she is one of the most-admired women in America, because my experience is, juries are pretty good at parsing through to find out what the facts are," Abrams said.

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