Last Friday, the First Circuit Court of Appeals upended the generally accepted notion that U.S. defamation law does not impose [defamation] liability for truthful statements. In Noonan v. Staples, a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Boston held that Alan Noonan, a former Staples employee, may hold the company liable for defamation based on a truthful email a superior sent to employees explaining the reason for Noonan’s termination, so long as he can prove that the email was sent with “actual malevolent intent or ill will.”
Huh? Here’s part of Robert’s precis:
As the 1st Circuit itself acknowledged, “everything said in the e-mail was true.” But it said Noonan could still have a claim under the 1902 statute if he could show that the e-mail was sent “with actual malice.” The Supreme Court’s decision in New York Times v. Sullivan defined actual malice as requiring knowledge that a statement was false or reckless disregard for its truth or falsity. The first time the 1st Circuit decided this case, it applied that standard to dismiss Noonan’s appeal. This time, it leapfrogged back in time over 40 years of Supreme Court precedent to apply a 1903 SJC ruling that defined actual malice as “malicious intention,” which Torruella recasts as “ill will.”
UPDATE: More here.