The case, Noonan v. Staples Inc. involves a Staples executive that distributed a mass email to 1,500 employees regarding the termination of a salesman for not complying with the company’s travel and expenses policies. The U.S. Court of Appeals of the First Circuit panel reversed an earlier ruling, allowing the case to proceed, creating ripples of concern that truth may no longer be a failsafe as a libel defense.
Staples has since asked the full appeals court to reconsider that ruling, and 51 news organizations have filed a friend-of-the-court brief saying that the decision, if allowed to stand, “will create a precedent that hinders the media’s ability to rely on truthful publication to avoid defamation liability.”
But Wendy Sibbison, the Greenfield appellate lawyer for the fired Staples employee, Alan S. Noonan, said the ruling applies only to lawsuits by private figures against private defendants, that is, defendants not involved in the news business, over purely private matters.
Robert A. Bertsche, the Boston lawyer who filed the news organizations’ brief, dismissed Sibbison’s assurances that the ruling applied only to private defendants.