APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, THIRD DISTRICT
508 N.E.2d 1105, 155 Ill. App. 3d 831, 108 Ill. Dec. 528 1987.IL.654
Appeal from the Circuit Court of La Salle County; the Hon. William P. Denny, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE SCOTT delivered the opinion of the court. BARRY, P.J., and HEIPLE, J., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE SCOTT
This case is on appeal from the trial court's dismissal of plaintiff's first amended complaint. The court found that plaintiff's claim of defamation alleging actual malice on the part of defendants was preempted by Federal labor law.
The complaint in this case alleging unlawful discharge and defamation was filed on January 28, 1982. The allegations regarding the discharge were dismissed on June 11, 1982, but the defamation claims survived. Defendants subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment alleging, among other things, that the communications upon which the defamation action was based were privileged. The trial court denied the motion on February 7, 1984, finding that while a qualified privilege was afforded to the defendants, there was a genuine question of fact as to whether the statements were made with actual malice.
On April 9, 1985, the trial court ordered plaintiff to file an amended complaint in order to clarify certain issues for trial purposes. The amended complaint was filed on January 22, 1986. Thereupon, defendants moved to dismiss the amended complaint based upon Federal preemption. The motion was granted on August 8, 1986.
The allegations of defamation with actual malice surround an incident occurring on or about October 7, 1981. At that time the plaintiff was an employee for defendant United Parcel Service . Defendant Frank Wise was a loss prevention supervisor with UPS, and defendant Bill Fields was Wise's supervisor. Count I of plaintiff's first amended complaint is directed against UPS alleging that certain agents of UPS accused the plaintiff of theft and that such statements were made with actual malice. Specifically, count I alleges that Frank Wise, in the presence and hearing of various persons, including Bill Fields and Bob Lee, the plaintiff's immediate boss, made the following statement:
"I have a signed statement from Gale Koehler that you sold him the saw, and that you knew it was hot."
Frank Wise further stated:
"We are going to have to terminate him [meaning the plaintiff], Bob, because this is a U.P.S. shipment and Jerry [plaintiff] stole the saw."
It is further alleged that Bill Fields made the following defamatory statements in the presence and hearing of various persons:
"He [meaning the plaintiff] will have to be terminated for dishonesty."
All of the above statements were allegedly made maliciously in that they were made knowing they were false and/or with reckless disregard of the truth. The alleged motivation for the statements was that UPS, through its agents, had the intention of causing the plaintiff's discharge because an earlier wrongdoing could not be substantiated and the plaintiff was an active spokesman for employee rights in the union. Further, that the statements were said meaning ...