A Prince George's County towing company operator who claimed he was libeled by a Washington television news broadcast nearly two years ago won his case in federal court here today, but was awarded damages of $1.
William E. Nelson, one of the lawyers for Andrea Mitchell, a reporter at the time for WTOP, described the jury award as "an obvious compromise verdict between those who wanted to find liability and those who didn't."
The six-member jury deliberated for about four hours before finding in favor of Davis Yerkie.
Yerkie owned and operated Quarius Towing and Storage in Suitland when Micthell broadcast a series of reports on towing businesses in the Washington area in January 1978. He claimed that Mitchell maliciously stated he had illegally towed a car and refused to return it to its owner.
As a result of the report, Yerkie said, he lost $100,000 in business. He had sought $1.5 million in punitive damages against Mitchell and The Washington Post Company, which owned the television station at the time of the broadcast.
Since the broadcast the station, now called WDVM, has been sold to the Evening News Association of Detroit. Mitchell now works for NBC News.