Whoa: Court rules truth no longer an absolute defense in a libel suit
Robert Ambrogi analyzes a U.S. Court of Appeals decision that said a Staples salesman could continue his libel suit against the company even though he agreed the company had been truthful in a public statement explaining it had fired him for embezzlement.
The court ruled on Friday that you can successfully sue for libel over a true statement if the statement is made with malicious intent - in this case, after Staples fired the guy, a vice president sent e-mail to 1,500 employees letting them know why. Ambrogi is aghast at the implications of the ruling, especially since the court cited a 1902 Massachusetts law that the state Supreme Judicial Court had earlier ruled unconstitutional in a similar case:
... This is far from the end of this case. The 1st Circuit's decision sends it back to the lower court for a trial to determine how the case should be decided. Most likely, Staples will ask the full panel of 1st Circuit judges to review this case en banc. It could even make its way to the Supreme Court. For the time being, however, be afraid -- be very, very afraid -- of this precedent. If ill will is all that is needed to turn a truthful statement into libel, then everyone is a potential defendant.