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Zinda v. La. Pac. Corp. - 149 Wis. 2d 913, 440 N.W.2d 548 (1989)

Rule:

Not all defamations are actionable, some fall within a class of conduct which the law terms privileged. The defense of privilege has developed under the public policy that certain conduct that would otherwise be actionable may escape liability because the defendant is acting in furtherance of some interest of societal importance, which is entitled to protection even at the expense of uncompensated harm to the plaintiff.

Facts:

The employee was injured and sustained broken bones. Subsequently, he completed an application form for the employer and denied any previous injuries. The employee signed forms acknowledging that any false statements would result in immediate discharge. Later, the employee filed a products liability action against the employer, alleging that it negligently manufactured the product involved in his previous injuries. The employer terminated the employee after it determined that the employee has lied on his application form. Subsequently, the employer published a notice regarding the employee's termination in the company newsletter. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the employee on the employee's defamation and invasion of privacy claims. The lower court remanded for a new trial on damages and the court affirmed. However, the court reversed the lower court's order that the employer abused any privilege as a matter of law.

Issue:

Did Zinda establish a prima facie claim of invasion of privacy, and was Louisiana Pacific's publication conditionally privileged as to both actions?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court affirmed the lower court's order requiring a new trial on the damages awarded to the employee by the jury against the employer and reversed the lower court's determination that the employer, as a matter of law, abused any conditional privilege by excessive publication. The court held that the information published was conditionally privileged as a communication of common interest concerning the employer-employee relationship and that it was a jury question as to whether the information was excessively published.

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