Fired Employee Lawsuit for Defamatory Statements Made by Other Employees About the Dismissal

In Jones v. Britt Airways, Inc., 622 F. Supp. 389 (N.D. Ill. 1985) the plaintiff sued a former corporate employer for defamation in relation to certain statements that were made by other employees concerning her dismissal. The defendant corporation moved for summary judgment based in part on its assertion of the nonpublication rule. The defendant argued, as defendants do here, that a communication by one corporate agent to another does not constitute publication. The Northern District of Illinois rejected that argument, first noting that publication is "an essential element of a cause of action for libel or slander" that is satisfied by the communication of the defamatory statements to any third person, including "'the defendant's own agent, employee or officer, even when the defendant is a corporation."' Jones, 622 F. Supp. at 391, quoting W. Keeton, Prosser & Keeton, on Torts 113, at 798 (5th ed. 1984). In so doing, the court specifically rejected the nonpublication rule as set forth in Prins, as confusing the issues of publication and privilege. Jones, 622 F. Supp. at 391, citing W. Keeton, Prosser & Keeton on Torts 113, at 799 (5th ed. 1984). The court found that "communication to any third party satisfies the Illinois publication requirement" and that, with the exception of one letter (to the plaintiff's attorney), all of the statements at issue were published for purposes of establishing the element for the defamation action. Jones, 622 F. Supp. at 391-92.