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Law School Case Brief

Deaile v. Gen. Tel. Co. of Cal - 40 Cal. App. 3d 841, 115 Cal. Rptr. 582 (1974)

Rule:

The privileges afforded by Cal. Civ. Code § 47 are not limited to actions for defamation. The privilege is provided to protect and to further the particular interests and activities safeguarded by the privilege. Those interests and activities are deemed to outweigh the correlative injury caused by their expression that is otherwise protected by the law of tort.

Facts:

Plaintiff employee sued defendant company for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful discharge. She admitted to her supervisor that she had improperly taken sick time. Her supervisor believed that plaintiff had misrepresented her absences on previous occasions. Plaintiff took a forced retirement, and other supervisors were informed of the reasons for plaintiff's departure. The trial court entered a take nothing judgment against the plaintiff.

Issue:

Is the plaintiff protected by the defense of privilege?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The court rejected plaintiff's argument that defendant had not properly established the defense of privilege to the defamation charge. Under Cal. Civ. Code § 47, a communication was privileged where it was made without malice and reasonably calculated to protect a common interest of the communicator and the recipient. All of the statements to other supervisors about plaintiff's forced retirement were communicated to correct rumors and misinformation about the reasons for plaintiff's departure. Where an employer sought to protect his own self-interest and that of his employees in good faith, the privilege obtained even if emotional distress resulted from the statements.

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