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Statements Quoting Judicial Proceedings Are Absolutely Privileged
Description Nevada high court upheld dismissal of a suit for defamation in which the defendant sent a letter to a business contact of the plaintiff, quoting damaging statements about the plaintiff from a court filing in another state. Quoting court proceedings is absolutely privileged, so even if the defendant knew the statements to be false and intended to inflict harm, the action was privileged.
Topic Torts
Key Words Defamation; Absolute Privilege
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Sahara Gaming was involved in negotiations with Players International concerning a casino deal. A union, aware of the negotiations, sent Players a letter asking it not to enter into a contract with Sahara. The letter accurately quoted a portion of a complaint filed in a court in Mississippi, which alleged that Sahara had committed fraud in another casino deal. Players failed to sign a contract. Sahara sued the union for defamation, claiming it republished the allegations in the complaint with full knowledge that the statements were false and with the intent to cause harm to Sahara. The district court held for the union, finding that it had the right to quote the court filing. Sahara appealed.
Decision Affirmed. "Since the Union's alleged defamatory statements were a fair and accurate report of a judicial proceeding, they are absolutely privileged, and the material recited will not support a defamation suit even if the statements were made maliciously and with knowledge of their falsity." This privilege applies to court proceedings, administrative hearings, and quasi-judicial proceedings. Since these statements are privileged, any other suit that might be based on the communication, such as interference with prospective advantage, are preempted.
Citation Sahara Gaming Corporation v. Culinary Workers Union Local 226, 984 P.2d 164 (Sup. Ct., Nev., 1999)

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