Defamation Ruling Against County Tossed

     (CN) – Palm Beach County’s health-care district did not defame a medical education company when its officials complained about the company to its overseer, a Florida appeals court ruled.

     Professional Medical Education (PME) had a reimbursement dispute with the county and its certification was suspended after county officials complained.
     PME sued the district for defamation, conspiracy, and tortious interference. The trial court awarded PME $692,400 in damages.
     However, Judge Gross of the West Palm Beach-based appeals court overturned the case on all three counts.
     “The recovery on the tortious interference count fails because the interfering conduct was not unjustified,” Gross wrote. “A defendant is not a stranger to a business relationship and thus cannot be held liable for tortuous interference.”
     On the defamation count, Gross ruled that the county district’s director, Jeff Davis, was protected by qualified immunity because he was performing his job duties when he complained. Since the first two counts failed, Gross ruled that the conspiracy count must fail as well.

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