Defamation claim by public figure dismissed for lack of proof of actual malice
Charles Nystrom sued three defendants alleging that they defamed him with allegations that he illegally paid Christmas bonuses to Barry County Central Dispatch employees for hours they had not worked. The matter was investigated and no criminal charges were filed, however, Nystrom alleged that the defendants' statements in the local newspaper and in letters to the County Board constituted a conspiracy to defame him and to intentionally inflict emotional distress. The trial court dismissed Nystrom's claim because he could not meet the higher threshold of "actual malice demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence" when comments are made about a public figure. The Court of Appeals agreed and upheld the dismissal. It also agreed with the lower court that there was no basis for Nystrom's claim to go to the jury as a fact-finder because there was insufficient evidence to support the allegation.