Mere dictation of libelous matter by a corporate officer or employee to a stenographer also employed by the corporation, in the regular course of the corporation's business, it not such a publication as will support an action for libel against the corporation itself, as in such circumstances the stenographer is not a third party. Publication is essential to libel, and the publication must be made to one or more third-parties
Plaintiff former employee was discharged by defendant employer. Plaintiff suspected his discharge was because of his failure to contribute to a senator's campaign. Plaintiff wrote to a senator who in turn wrote a letter to defendant's president. The president sent a reply letter stating that plaintiff was discharged because of inefficient and unsatisfactory performance as a manager. The letter further stated that defendant provided plaintiff time to improve. The letter was dictated by defendant's president and an employee of defendant. Plaintiff asserted that the statements therein were false, made with malice, and were therefore libelous and unprivileged. The trial court entered summary judgment for defendant on the ground that there was no publication on the alleged libel. On appeal, the court affirmed.
Did the trial court err in ruling that there was no publication of the alleged libel?
The court adopted the rule that if the language complained of was uttered only to the complaining party or to his agent representing him in the matter discussed in the communication, it was not such a publication that could support an action for slander.