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Argumentative and Snide Comments About Sex Life Do Not Meet Actual Malice Standard
Description A public figure brought various tort claims, including loss of consortium, against defendants. Defendants made comments to the media about that claim, which generally means loss of sex. Plaintiff then sued for slander for those comments. Appeals court upheld dismissal of that claim since the comments could not be shown to be made with actual malice.
Topic Torts
Key Words Defamation; Actual Malice
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Tucker crusaded against "gangsta rap" lyrics that "grossly malign black women ... pander pornography to ... children ... and corrupt its vast audience of listeners...." Tucker took her message to corporations and to Congress. She and her husband later sued Tupac Shakur (a gangsta rapper who was killed) and his record company for songs on an album which, they contend, were aimed at her, causing her to receive death threats. They sued for emotional distress, slander, and invasion of privacy. They sought damages for various injuries, including "loss of consortium." This claim was interpreted to mean a loss of ability to engage in sexual relations, a view encouraged by defendant's attorney and reported in various media. The Tuckers then amended their suit to include a claim for "false and misleading statements" about their sex life. The defendants moved for summary judgment on this complaint; the trial court granted their motion, holding that their comments about their sex lives were not made with actual malice. The Tuckers appealed.
Decision Affirmed. The statements involved could be defamatory, but since the Tuckers are public figures, the standard for defamation is that the statements be made with actual malice. The media was only reporting what various parties, including defendants, said about the loss of consortium claim. There is no evidence of actual malice on the part of the media. The statements made by defendants and their attorney concerned their willingness to argue the claim in court, since they believed it to be false. That is not sufficient to show actual malice either.
Citation Tucker v. Fischbein, - F.3d - (2001 WL 19679, 3rd Cir., 2001)

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