Can a Statement Be False Without Being Defamatory ?
In Musser v. Smith Protective Services, Inc. 723 S.W.2d 653, 654-55 (Tex. 1987), the Supreme Court held that a statement in a letter by the defendant that the plaintiff, trained by the defendant business, was "able to relieve us of certain accounts" when he left defendant's business, was not reasonably capable of defamatory meaning. Musser, 723 S.W.2d at 655.
The court held the statement non-defamatory because it:
Does not charge plaintiff with the commission of a crime or the violation of any law.
It does not accuse him of violating any kind of contract, such as the covenant against competition.
In our opinion by no stretch of the imagination does it charge him with any unethical acts and business dealings.
It accuses him of absolutely nothing except what he had a right to do ... .Id. at 655.
Likewise, in San Antonio Express News v. Dracos, 922 S.W.2d 242, 247 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 1996, no writ) statements that Dracos quit his job, "Just like that," and that Express News had no idea why he quit, "except that I understand he has done that kind of thing before" were held to be non-defamatory as a matter of law. Dracos 922 S.W.2d at 248.
The Express News accused Dracos of doing only what he had a right to do, terminate his employment at-will. Dracos, 922 S.W.2d at 248.
Statements may be false, abusive, unpleasant, or objectionable to the appellant without being defamatory. Musser, 723 S.W.2d at 654; Dracos, 922 S.W.2d at 248.
Defamation lawsuits with a media defendant necessarily require consideration of the competing interests between the public, press, and the individual. Dracos, 922 S.W.2d at 251.
The legitimate interest in protecting the individual's right to redress wrongful injury is balanced against the need for a clear and vigorous free press. Dracos, 922 S.W.2d at 252.