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Law School Case Brief

Kelly v. Gen. Tel. Co. - 136 Cal. App. 3d 278, 186 Cal. Rptr. 184 (1982)

Rule:

Malice necessary to prevent application of the qualified privilege may be alleged by pleading that the publication was motivated by hatred or ill will toward the plaintiff.

Facts:

Plaintiff employee filed an action against defendant employer for slander, interference with prospective advantage, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of Cal. Labor Code § 1050. Plaintiff alleged that his former supervisor told other employees of defendant that plaintiff had misused company funds and falsified invoices. As a result plaintiff's personnel records were changed to "ineligible for rehire," and defendant refused to reemploy plaintiff when he applied for reemployment. Plaintiff also alleged that the former supervisor made the statements with intent to injure plaintiff as a result of his hatred for plaintiff because of plaintiff's union activities. The trial court dismissed the action, following the sustaining of defendant's demurrers, without leave to amend.

Issue:

Did the trial court err in sustaining the defendant’s demurrers, and dismissing plaintiff’s action?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court reversed the judgment of the trial court, holding that the lower court erred in sustaining defendant's demurrer to the cause of action for slander because plaintiff sufficiently pleaded malice. According to the Court, plaintiff should have been afforded an opportunity to amend his intentional infliction of emotional distress complaint to allege with greater specificity what conduct of defendant persisted after plaintiff informed defendant that his statements were false.

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