(CN) – A man who forwarded an allegedly defamatory email about a Vietnam War veteran can’t be held liable for defamation, a California appeals court ruled.
“If you are defamed in an email, and the person who receives the email then simply forwards it on to a friend, your recourse is against the originator of the first email, not the person who hit the forward icon,” Justice David Sills wrote for the Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego.
Nguyen Xuan Dux, president of a group of Vietnamese navy and merchant marine veterans, sent an email accusing Hung Tan Phan of being disciplined by the Vietnamese navy for “abusive behavior,” according to the ruling.
Fellow veteran Lang Van Pham got the email and passed it on to at least one other veteran, adding an introductory paragraph that read: “Everything will come out into the daylight.”
Pham did not contribute to the alleged defamation by prefacing the email with his thoughts, the appeals court ruled.
“Nothing ‘created’ by defendant Pham was itself defamatory,” Justice Sills wrote. “All he said was: The truth will come out in the end. What will be will be. Whatever.”
The appeals court affirmed dismissal of the defamation claim against Pham.