SW Legal studies in Business

Testimony Before Legislature Has Absolute Privilege Against Defamation Action
Description Utah high court held that when a witness before a state legislative committee made a defamatory statement about a supporter of a piece of legislation, the witness had the benefit of absolute privilege against a defamation action.
Topic Torts
Key Words Defamation; Absolute Privilege; Legislative Testimony
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts When testifying about proposed legislation before a committee of the Utah House of Representatives, Perry made a statement that clearly implied that Riddle had bribed a member of the legislature who sponsored the bill in question. Riddle then sued Perry for defamation. The trial court dismissed the suit, holding that Perry was protected by absolute privilege. Riddle appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. The statements made by Perry about Riddle were defamatory. However, a legislative witness has absolute privilege against defamation actions for statements that relate to legislative proceedings. Since Perry was testifying before a legislative committee about proposed legislation, he is due absolute privilege protection for his statements. The purpose of this rule is so that people will feel unrestrained by potential defamation liability when they address the legislature, so that it might operate with full information and maximum effectiveness.

Citation Riddle v. Perry, 40 P.3d 1128 (Sup. Ct., Utah, 2002)

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