Court upholds jury verdict on assault; throws out defamation claim
Shahn Farokhrany sued Marlin Jackson alleging that Jackson assaulted him. Jackson counter-sued for defamation, claiming that Farkokhrany's original claim that he was struck with a beer bottle caused injury to Jackson's reputation and interfered with his NFL draft standing. The jury refused to award damages for the assault, and instead awarded damages to Jackson for defamation, and Farokhrany appealed.Farokhrany's initial claim, that the court should have entered a directed verdict against Jackson, was rejected by the Court of Appeals. It noted that both sides claimed to be acting in self defense and that there was a mutual affray: under the circumstances, it was a question of fact for the jury to decide whether Jackson struck Farokhrany in self-defense.
On the defamation issue, however, the Court overruled the lower court and held that Jackson's counter-claim should not have gone to the jury. The Court noted that Farokhrany's original "defamatory" statement was to police: such a statement to officers investigating a crime is immune from claims of libel, slander or defamation. Farokhrany made the same defamatory statement to his doctor, however, in confidential medical records. Although such a "privileged" confidential statement may be grounds for a defamation claim, in this case, there were no proofs that the doctor ever breached confidentiality or that Jackson suffered injury to his reputation as a result of this statement. Since Jackson had not proved that his damages stemmed from anything other than the privileged statements to police, the verdict in his favor could not be upheld.