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Defamatory Statements Made to Bank Examiners Not Protected by Immunity
Description Court upheld jury verdict of defamation for a former bank employee who contended that the negative statements made about him by the bank president to bank examiners that appeared in the examiners' reports injured his ability to get work. Bank was not protected by qualified immunity that would have applied because the jury found there to be malice.
Topic Torts
Key Words Defamation, Immunity
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Gaia, who had worked at Rockwood Bank, sued for defamation, contending that statements made about him by the bank president to bank examiners injured his ability to obtain another job. The statements were contained in reports by the bank examiners that other banks could see. The jury awarded Gaia actual and punitive damages. The bank appealed, contending that communications between the bank and the examiners are protected by either absolute or qualified privilege that entitles the bank to immunity from liability.
Decision Affirmed. Routine bank examinations are not judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings under Missouri law, so they are not due absolute immunity. "Qualified immunity will protect the person from liability for making false or defamatory statements if it can be shown that the comments were made without actual malice." That shield would have applied here, but the jury found malice on the part of the bank, so the qualified immunity was lost.
Citation Rockwood Bank v. Gaia, 170 F.3d 833 (8th Cir., 1999)

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