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A Better Partnership
July 02, 2015

COA: Statements made to police for the purpose of reporting criminal activity are entitled to absolute privilege in defamation suits

In Eddington v. Torrez, No. 320882, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that a defamation claim cannot be maintained against a defendant if the basis of the claim depends on statements made to police concerning criminal activity, as those statements are absolutely privileged and therefore immune from suit.
In this case, Plaintiff Mark Eddington alleged that Defendant Raymond Torrez, purportedly an agent of Defendant Admiral Petroleum Company, falsely reported to police that Eddington had stolen fuel from a gas station on four separate occasions.  Upon concluding that Torrez’s statements were subject to an absolute privilege and precluded from forming the basis of a defamation claim, the trial court granted summary disposition in favor of Defendants. Eddington appealed.
The Court of Appeals held that Torrez’s statements to police were in fact privileged.  The Court relied on precedent set forth in Shinglemeyer v. Wright, 82 N.W. 887 (1900), which created an absolute privilege covering any report of criminal activity to law enforcement authorities in the context of a defamation claim.  The court concluded that Shinglemeyer is still good law and properly governed the outcome of the case. Therefore, the court affirmed the trial court’s order granting summary disposition to Defendants.

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