Doherty Enterprises, Inc. v. Murray, No. ESX-L-10079-08 (Law. Div., May 7, 2009) – The defendant’s daughter was previously employed by one of the restaurants in the plaintiff’s chain. She sued the restaurant, claiming sexual harassment by managers and other employees. Thereafter, her father made a posting on a newspaper’s message board criticizing Doherty and its restaurant chain, claiming that the managers engaged in sexual harassment and “any reader who has a daughter, wife, etc. working for Doherty are [sic] more than likely being subjected to similar treatment.”  Doherty filed a defamation claim as a result of the father’s statement.

The court held that the father’s statements were clearly statements of opinion and were a matter of public interest, thereby requiring Doherty to demonstrate that the statements were false and made with “actual malice.” The court found that Doherty could not do so, as the father was in possession of documents and transcripts from the arbitration hearing which supported a credible claim for sexual harassment, and there was no evidence that the statements were made with actual malice.

Note: This article was published in the June 2009 issue of the New Jersey eAuthority.

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