Business owner can maintain defamation-type action against Township building official
The owners of Gino's Surf Lounge in Harrsion Township, Macomb County, sued Vijay Parakh, after he disrupted a planned "grand opening party." The owners of the restaurant and banquet hall claimed that Parakh violated the law and exceeded his authority when he wrote a report that defamed the owners and discussed the validity of their certificate of occupancy. The trial judge dismissed the plaintiffs' claims against the Township, but maintained the action against Parakh, finding a material dispute about the truth or falsity of Parakh's report and his alleged gross negligence.
Parakh appealed. The Court of Appeals agreed with the outcome below, but pointed out that the trial judge had applied the wrong standard in addressing Parakh's potential liability. Since his alleged actions constituted an intentional tort, rather than negligence, in order to avoid governmental immunity, the plaintiffs must prove a form of malice, rather than gross negligence.