Fired worker's defamation claim is dismissed
Bella Osak sued her supervisor and the University of Michigan after she was terminated for sloppy lab work. She did not dispute the University's right to terminate her employment, but argued that her supervisor's description of her lab work was defamatory. She argued that the supervisor acted with actual malice to poison her employment record by claiming that she deliberately falsified laboratory data.
The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of Osak's defamation lawsuit. It held that she had failed to provide adequate proof of actual malice. Since the actors shared an interest in the subject communication, the Court ruled that while a jury could hold that it was defamatory, there wasn't enough evidence for a jury to rule that the communication was motivated by malice. The court reached this conclusion despite proof of actual "ill will" towards Osak on the part of her supervisor, and despite the supporting affidavits of thre Ph.D. researchers confirming that Osak's actions did not constitute intentional falsification of data.