Melaleuca v. Clark

What is the proper standard for determining defamation of a company's products?


The California Court of Appeals held that to be considered defamatory, the speaker must have been acting with actual malice. Actual malice is present if the speaker knows the statement is false, or if he has serious subjective doubts about the truth of the statement. Clark published a book claiming to have identified the source and cure for all cancers. She claimed to have developed a devise that could detect benzene, a chemical that she claimed was a root cause of cancer, to levels previously unavailable. In her book, Clark claimed that her device detected benzene in Melaleuca's products. Melaleuca, after determining though conventional analysis that the product did not contain benzene, sued for defamation. The court held that because Clark's statements were directed at Melaleuca's products, not the company, and that she stressed that her techniques were new and unconventional, her statements must be held to the higher standard of actual malice. Because the jury was not instructed on the law of actual malice, the verdict for Melaleuca was overturned.

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Reference Info:State, 9th Circuit, California | United States

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