SW Legal studies in Business

No Defamation in Corrected Report about Prospective Employee
Description

Appeals court held that a consumer reporting agency, which initially reported incorrect information about a drug conviction, but corrected the information, could not be sued for defamation by the subject of a report who had a job offer withdrawn in the meantime.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Defamation; Background Check; Employment

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Central Washington Hospital (CWH) hired Pre-Employee.com to do a background check on Van Hoven. When Van Hoven applied, he signed a background authorization form under penalty of perjury. The form asked: “Have you been convicted of, or do you have charges pending for any crime?” He marked no. Pre-Employee reported to CWH that Van Hoven was guilty of marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia. Later, Pre-Employee corrected that statement, noting that the marijuana possession charge had been dismissed. However, when CWH got the initial report, Van Hoven was asked about it and explained the situation, saying he has been confused by the question. His offer of employment was revoked. Van Hoven sued Pre-Employment for defamation for its initial incorrect report to CWH. The trial court dismissed the suit. Van Hoven appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. Pre-Employment provided correct information after it realized the error in the initial report. There was no malice or willful intent to injure Van Hoven. CWH also testified that had it received the correct information initially, that it would not have made an offer to hire anyway. Under state law, a consumer reporting agency must disclose accurate information. Since the error in the initial report was voluntarily corrected, it did not violate the statute.

Citation Van Hoven v. Pre-Employee.Com, ---P.3d--- (2010 WL 2735669, Ct. App., Wash., 2010)

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