While a conditional privilege on a conversation may exist between two parties, when they are discussing another party that they have in common, and their discussion is truthful, the jury still must decide whether the communication was initiated out of malice toward the party in common.
Defendant had employed plaintiff. Plaintiff resigned after a disagreement as to the defendant's sales and employment practices. After resignation, the plaintiff looked to be employed with one of defendant's competitors. When the defendant heard about this, one of the defendant's VPs called the plaintiff's number and made derogatory comments regarding plaintiff's honesty. Plaintiff sued defendant for defamation. The trial court held that the conversation between plaintiff's current and former employers were privileged, and ruled in the defendant's favor. Plaintiff appealed.
Whether, in defamation suits, a conditional privilege exists when the plaintiff was previously employed by the defendant.
No, in defamation suits, no such privilege exists.
In reversing the lower court's ruling, the Court held that the jury should still be able to decide whether or not malice was the motivation for the communication. Further, the court ruled that a plaintiff should have the opportunity to bring suit.