Qualified Privilege (Tort)

Other types of communications are subject to what is called a qualified privilege, meaning that the person making the allegedly defamatory statement may have had some right to make that statement.

If a qualified privilege applies to a statement, it means that the person suing for defamation must prove that the person who made the defamatory statement acted intentionally, recklessly, or with malice, hatred, spite, ill will or resentment, depending on your state’s law.

Just some of the statements for which a qualified privilege applies are
•statements made in governmental reports of official proceedings
•statements made by lower government officials such members of town or local boards
•citizen testimony during legislative proceedings
•statements made in self-defense or to warn others about a harm or danger
•certain types of statements made by a former employer to a potential employer regarding the employee, and
•published book or film reviews that constitute fair criticism.

The employer review qualified privilege is particularly noteworthy. In order to avoid defamation claims, some employers these days refuse to confirm any details about former employees other than their dates of employment. But certain types of negative statements might fit in under the qualified privilege category, If, for example, the employer fired the employee for theft, a statement about that to a potential employer might qualify as a statement made to warn others about a harm or danger (i.e., the danger of hiring someone who might steal from you).

Retraction Of The Allegedly Defamatory Statement

If the defamer retracts the allegedly defamatory statement, that often will serve as a defense to any defamation lawsuit, especially if the defamer also apologizes. Learn more about Different Types of Defamation.

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