California Appeals Court Rules Employer’s “Lying, Thieving Snake” Comment Not Defamatory

8:21 pm Asset Protection, Business Litigation

snake 150x150 California Appeals Court Rules Employer’s “Lying, Thieving Snake” Comment Not DefamatoryCalifornia’s 3rd District Court of Appeals has ruled that an employer’s statement regarding a former employee describing him as a “lying, thieving snake” was not defamatory because it was a statement of opinion, not fact.

In Huse v. Auburn Associates Inc. et al., the appeals court rejected a claim by plaintiff Richard Huse that employer Auburn Associates violated his right to privacy and defamed him, affirming a trial court’s earlier summary judgment for the employer.

Huse’s claims arose from an earlier lawsuit filed against Auburn in 2004 for sexual harassment that was eventually settled.  Huse alleged that following the settlement, a company director told another manager that Huse “was a convicted felon who had been in prison and was nothing but a lying, thieving snake” and complained about the amount of the settlement

Huse filed suit for defamation and invasion of privacy based on the director’s comments in 2006, and a trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants in that case.  Huse appealed and the Court of Appeals affirmed the earlier ruling.

The appeals court found that the “snake” remarks did not amount to anything more than opinion, and that the context of the statements could not be taken as fact since the company director had been “venting” about the earlier settlement.  The court concluded that the statement did not amount to actionable defamation.

The appeals court also found that there was no grounds for an invasion of privacy claim because the information about Huse’s criminal background was not publicly disclosed, and because the confidentiality clause in the earlier settlement applied only to Huse, not to Auburn.

If you are a California business owner, our Orange County asset protection law firm can help you protect yourself and your business from legal judgments and claims.

Help is available to you by contacting your Southern California financial planning experts today.

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