Staples fired sales director Alan S. Noonan was fired for padding his expense report. Executive Vice President Jay Baitler sent an e-mail to approximately 1,500 employees explaining the reason for the firing.
The e-mail contained no untruths, but Mr. Noonan sued for defamation anyhow.
Unfortunately for Staples, truth is not a defense in Massachusetts if the challenged statement was communicated with actual malice according to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in its recent decision Noonan v. Staples (posted at JD Supra).
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals looked at G. L. c. 231, Section 92, which says that truth is a defense to libel “unless actual malice is proved.” However, in a 1998 case, Shaari v. Harvard Student Agencies, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that statute unconstitutional as applied to matters of public concern.