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Doctor cannot sue for implied defamation

General Motors sent a notice to its employees indicating that it would no longer honor disability slips from a list of ten physicians, including Athar Siddiqui, an Internal Medicine Specialist.  Although the Notice stated that it was not accusing the doctors of incompetence and that employees could still treat with the doctors, the tenor of the notice clearly implied that the doctors were guilty of some form of incompetence or dishonesty.  Siddiqui demanded a retraction and when he didn't get it, he sued.  He argued that GM was guilty of implied defamation and intentional interference with a business relationship.

Siddiqui relied heavily on a case in which a nurse sued her hospital employer after she was fired.  The hospital was involved in an overdose scandal and had issued a press release that clearly implied that the nurse had been discharged for her involvement in the overdose.  In fact, she had been fired for denouncing the overdose error in the presence of the victim's family.  The Court held that this was defamation by implication and allowed the nurse to sue.  Siddiqui argued that his case was justified by the same legal analysis.  The Court of Appeals rejected this argument, holding that because of the inane disclaimers in GM's notice to employees, Siddiqui had not been defamed.  It also ruled that GM's notice had merely "changed its policy" and that "informing [employees] of a change in its policy is not a "per se" wrongful act" that would constitute an interference with business relationships.

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